Mayor Cantrell, City and Partner Agencies Provide Winter Weather Update

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Mayor LaToya Cantrell today joined public safety, infrastructure and public health agencies as well as representatives from the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans and Entergy New Orleans to update residents on preparations for freezing weather that could compromise city streets and energy and water supplies.


“We know that we are facing three challenges right now. In addition to managing this year’s Mardi Gras in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we now face wintry weather that can compromise our roads, our energy, our pipes and our drinking water,” Mayor Cantrell said. “For this, there is one key message we have for everyone: We need you to stay home and stay safe. The next couple days will require a great deal of vigilant and safe behavior as we work to get through this together.”

[WATCH: Winter weather preparation press conference]

Mayor Cantrell was joined by Michael Antoine, Deputy Director, New Orleans Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness; Sarah Babcock, Director of Policy, New Orleans Health Department; Ghassan Korban, Executive Director, Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans; Ramsey Green, Deputy CAO for Infrastructure; and Sandra Diggs-Miller, VP of Customer Service, Entergy New Orleans.

The Mayor issued an emergency declaration on Sunday, Feb. 14, ahead of the anticipated winter weather.

Here is an overview of agency response in preparation for the freezing weather:

PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY

New Orleans Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (NOHSEP)

NOHSEP has been monitoring conditions in areas to the north and west of the New Orleans area that are already seeing the impacts of winter weather early Monday. There are dangerous road conditions from freezing rain and sleet in many parts of the state right now. There is still no accumulation forecast for the Metro area, but any water remaining on the roads this afternoon may ice over as temperatures drop below freezing in the early evening hours.

NOHSEP is asking everyone to stay put after 3 p.m. this afternoon until about mid-day Tuesday. And if people must drive tonight or tomorrow morning, be extremely cautious, especially on elevated roadways and bridges. DOTD recommends drivers use US 90 and US 61 as alternate routes to I-10 should roadways ice over.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, New Orleans Police Department, and Department of Public Works will monitor road conditions and provide updates on any road closures.

A Hard Freeze Warning and a Wind Chill Advisory will be in effect from 6 p.m. Monday (Feb. 15) until 12 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 16). NOHSEP is advising everyone to please take precautions to protect people, pets, pipes, and plants. Information and preparedness tips can be found on our website, ready.nola.gov. For ongoing updates, text your zip code to 888777 and follow NOLA Ready on social media @nolaready.

Finally, NOHSEP has activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center, which includes liaisons from public safety, infrastructure, transportation, and human services coordinating the necessary operations to respond to this winter weather event. NOHSEP also is coordinating with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to fill resource needs, including backup generators for the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

New Orleans Health Department (NOHD)

NOHD has been coordinating all weekend with homeless providers to ensure safe and warm places for everyone to sleep. All homeless providers are currently open and allowing individuals to remain indoors during the day:

  • Ozanam Inn
  • New Orleans Mission
  • Salvation Army
  • Covenant House
  • City of New Orleans Low Barrier Shelter

Any residents seeking overnight shelter should call 3-1-1. NOHD asks that residents who want to assist homeless individuals do not provide tents and sleeping bags this week, as they are not enough protection from these temperatures. Instead please assist them getting to shelters. Transportation can be arranged by calling the NOPD non-emergency line at 504-821-2222.

Residents are encouraged to check in on elderly friends, relatives and neighbors; help them prepare by wrapping their pipes, taking care of their plants and pets, and making sure that they are warm. NOHD also will be monitoring the Special Needs Registry throughout this event, so ianyone who needs assistance should call 3-1-1. The City will remain in constant contact with our healthcare facilities and will be working with Entergy New Orleans and the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans in case there are power outages or water issues.

Finally, residents are reminded that the City remains in the COVID-19 pandemic and to wear masks and socially distance as much as possible.

PARTNER AGENCIES

Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO)

Residents are reminded that SWBNO not only needs power to operate drainage pumps, but it also needs power to operate the pumps that bring drinking water to you from our plant. A deep freeze like this one is likely to impact the power system in a couple of ways:

  • Higher demand based on residents running water to prevent frozen pipes
  • The likelihood of water freezing in pipes on private property and causing a spike in water main breaks

Currently, SWBNO is able to utilize Turbine 1 and its five EMDs, and frequency changers to operate our system. Some of its potable water pumps use 25 cycle power, and some use the conventional 60 cycle. SWBNO is able use Entergy power to drive some of its 25 cycle pumps. Entergy also supplies power to drive 60 cycle pumps as well, so they are critical to its operation.

Currently, Turbines 4 and 5 are down, and Turbine 6 cannot operate in freezing temperatures. The City and SWBNO worked with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness to obtain two additional generators that will give SWBNO a total of 4 megawatts of power. Still, to avoid a boil water advisory, SWBNO must stay above 20 pounds per square inch. It is highly likely that freezing temperatures will cause water in the pipes on private property to freeze and cause them to burst.

Residents are encouraged to do the following:

  • Protect your pipes; there is still time to get outside and insulate your exposed pipes.
  • Wrap them with foam, rubber or fiberglass sleeves.
  • You can also use rags or newspaper.
  • Be sure to wrap the pipes with at least an inch of those materials, then cover them with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep them dry.
  • When temperatures approach 32 degrees, run a spaghetti-thin trickle of water from the ONE faucet farthest away from you water meter.

It is imperative that residents run just a thin trickle. If residents across the city run more than that, it will contribute to a water pressure drop and send many areas into a boil water advisory, much like we saw in 2018.

“We want to be very straightforward about what you can expect. You will likely see water main ruptures,” said Ghassan Korban, Executive Director, Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. “While we will address these as swiftly as possible, prioritizing those that pose the greatest risk to our overall water system. Our power and pumping system is vulnerable and likely to have challenges. Boil water advisories across the city are highly likely. Pipes in homes may burst.”

If that happens, residents are encouraged to call a plumber immediately. Turn off and drain the water in your house. To do this, locate the main water line from your water meter. There should be a valve where that line enters your house. Turn it off. Then run all your indoor faucets to drain water from your pipes. Disconnect garden hoses and hoses to your washing machine. For more information on how to “Fight the Freeze” visit the SWBNO website or follow on social media at @SWBNewOrleans.

Entergy New Orleans (ENO)

ENO has postponed planned outages and returned all available lines to service. Supply resources are ready to operate when called upon. In some cases, personnel are remaining on-site. However, as in other regions, supply resources will be challenged as we approach this new winter peak. ENO is asking customers to conserve energy where possible. Some ways customers can manage their usage through this period:

  • Lower the thermostat to 68 degrees.
  • Don’t allow warmed air to escape from the home. Use door stoppers.
  • If your power goes out, you can text REG to 36778 or call ENO at 1-800-9OUTAGE to report it.

Please stay clear of linemen as they work to safely restore power, and stay away from downed power lines as they may still be energized. If you do lose power, do not open your refrigerator or freezer door. Food will stay cold much longer this way. If outside temperature is below freezing, consider placing food in an ice chest outside.

Customers without power can help in the restoration process by turning off major appliances but leaving on a lamp or other light to indicate when power is restored. Then, gradually turn on other appliances to spread out the increase in power usage over a longer time. If you have a portable generator, use it safely. DO NOT run it in an enclosed space. If connecting to the whole house, do so only if the connection has been installed by a licensed electrician to prevent back feed on to the distribution system.

SANITATION AND PARKS

Department of Sanitation

Curbside trash and recycling collections have been suspended citywide at eligible properties serviced by the City of New Orleans. Residents are advised to remove all trash and recycling carts from the curb and secure. Citywide collections will resume on Wednesday or the next regularly scheduled collection day at eligible properties. The Gentilly and River Birch landfills are now closed and will remain closed on Tuesday.

Department of Parks and Parkways

Parks and Parkways has activated its freeze plan to ensure that all exposed pipes in all parks, Parkways facilities and Bartholomew Golf Course are protected from freezing temperatures. The Greenhouse freeze plan has been activated to ensure all exposed water lines are protected as well as plant stock.

Here are the Monday/Tuesday closures:

  • Joseph M. Bartholomew Golf Course
  • Jackson Square
  • Armstrong Park
  • Washington Square

Tuesday closures:

  • Brechtel Park
  • Mississippi River Heritage Park

NORDC

Today, all NORD facilities will close at 3 p.m. due to the impending weather event. Reminder, all NORD facilities will be closed in observance of Mardi Gras Day on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Normal operating hours will resume Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.

TRANSPORTATION

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

The Airport is prepared to open its de-icing pads (three locations) to meet airline requests for aircraft deicing before departures. The Airport is advising passengers to check with their airline for the most accurate flight information. Additional staff will be available to respond if an emergency situation occurs due to weather conditions.

New Orleans Regional Transit Administration

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority continues to monitor road conditions and will maintain service across all modes as long as weather conditions allow us to do so safely. At this time, the agency is planning to operate a regular schedule tomorrow, Feb. 16, across all modes. For the latest service information, visit RTA’s website at www.RTAforward.org, follow @NewOrleansRTA on Twitter and Facebook, or call the Rideline at 504-248-3900.