Louisiana governor declares state of emergency over New Orleans flooding

By Eric DuVall and Danielle Haynes  |  Aug. 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM
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Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday declared a state of emergency for New Orleans in the event the state must help the city deal with flooding in the coming weeks.

Edwards issued the order during a midday news conference with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He said the declaration is retroactive, running from Aug. 5 to Sept. 3.

"If we get the heavier expected rainfall, time will be of the essence," Edwards said. "We are working well together. Obviously this is a serious situation, but it is not something to be panicked about."

The governor issued the order after a fire at a Sewerage and Water Board plant impeded the city's ability to handle floods.

Earlier Thursday, several top city officials in New Orleans lost their jobs after a historic rainstorm caused the city to flood, despite promises the city's pumping system could handle such a deluge.

Scenes eerily reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina unfolded last week in New Orleans when the rainstorm dumped upwards of 10 inches of rain in 3 hours, flooding streets, homes and businesses.

Initially, Sewerage and Water Board Superintendent Joe Becker told CBS News the city's pumps were working at full capacity, but he was later forced to retract that statement.

Instead, he clarified the city's pumps were working to their full potential given the number that were operational when the storm hit. Of the 121 pumps in the city, 20 were out of commission and one station worked at barely 50 percent capacity.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked for Becker's resignation, along with two other top officials this week, saying the city's response to the storm was insufficient. Still, Landrieu said, even if all the pumps were working at 100 percent capacity, they would not have been able to keep up with the rate of rainfall during the storm.

"This is unacceptable on every level," New Orleans resident Naaman Stewart said at a city council hearing. "If we flood like this in a typical New Orleans summer rainstorm, what's gonna happen in a hurricane? What's gonna happen in a tropical depression?"

As part of the emergency declaration, the state is sending 14 2-megawatt generators to New Orleans through the end of hurricane season.

"We're going to make sure we have everything in place so people are safe. This is not a time to panic," Landrieu said.

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