Only 1 Turbine Left to Power NOLA Pumping Stations

August 10, 2017

Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in New Orleans Thursday due to a high risk for more flooding as more rain is expected over the next seven days.

The emergency order was issued when the governor learned that a fire within Turbine 1 Wednesday night had brought the number of turbines available to power pumping stations in New Orleans to just one. Turbine 1 powers most of the pumping stations that serve the East Bank of New Orleans. “It was an internal fire within the turbine itself, and it was a critical part,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

Landrieu said Thursday morning crews were making progress on repairing the turbine but the city was bringing in 14 two-megawatt generators for back up. Those generators will be on hand for the rest of the hurricane season.

Given New Orleans' precarious location with much of the city below river level, it is amazing that the city has no adequate backup power source. Landrieu said he only learned that on Thursday.

Last Saturday, up to 10 inches of rain fell on the city, but eight of the huge pumps meant to move floodwaters weren't working. Six smaller constant duty pumps stopped when they lost power. The result was flooding up to waist deep, including areas such as the French Quarters that haven't flooded in decades.

The emergency declaration is retroactive. It runs from August 5 -- when the first round of flooding started this past weekend -- to September 3.

Source of the problem

New Orleans' 119-year-old drainage infrastructure system relies on two types of power.

Four of the city's five turbines are run by steam using a 25-cycle system that predates World War II. However, Turbines 3 and 5 lost power in May and July, respectively, and are still under repair. Turbine 4 was badly damaged during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina and has been down since 2012. It's undergoing a complete refurbishment that's expected to be completed in December. Turbine 2 was mothballed years ago.

The fifth and only working power plant is Turbine 6, a more modern 60-cycle natural gas system mostly supplied by Entergy.

To keep up to date with the New Orleans flooding situation, go to