Big Easy on edge as city scrambles to fix pumping system

NEW ORLEANS — Flood-weary residents remained on edge as Louisiana’s governor declared a state of emergency in New Orleans, but this time the threat wasn’t churning in the Gulf of Mexico.

The city’s malfunctioning water-pumping system and the threat of more rain have left some neighborhoods at a greater risk of flooding.

The Big Easy hadn’t finished cleaning up from the last round of flooding before it faced the possibility of another. Mounds of debris from last weekend’s flash flood are still piled up on sidewalks and street medians, some taller than passing cars.

Tammy Butler went through Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was reliving the stress this week. Butler says she can’t afford to rebuild her home and life a second time.

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“I am angry, and I am sick of it,” Butler said. “If people keep getting floods, I’m just going to have to leave the city.”

The city scrambled to repair fire-damaged equipment at a power plant and shore up its drainage system less than a week after a flash flood from torrential rain overwhelmed the city’s pumping system and inundated many neighborhoods.

Schools closed for the week, and the mayor of New Orleans urged residents to park their cars on high ground.

Gov. John Bel Edwards described his emergency declaration Thursday as a precautionary measure. He and Mayor Mitch Landrieu tried to calm the jangled nerves of residents still angry about the city’s response to last weekend’s flooding.

“Obviously this is a serious situation, but it’s not something to be panicked about,” Edwards said at a City Hall news conference.

The National Weather Service said the chance for rain in the area Friday was 60 percent, and that numerous showers and thunderstorms were possible. Forecasters said storms would fire up primarily during the late morning and afternoon hours, with a chance that heavy rainfall could lead to more flooding.

Jamie Hill, a resident of the Mid-City neighborhood that has flooded twice in the past month, was clearing mud, sand, grass and other debris from the storm drain near her home. Her car flooded in an earlier downpour a few weeks ago. She said she’s learned her lesson and now moves her car anytime it rains.

“I’m doing what I can, not that it will really matter if the pumps aren’t working,” she said.

The city’s infrastructure was crumbling for years before the devastation…

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