Nate aims at New Orleans: Will pumps to drain the city work?

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 4:18 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 4:16 AM


            FILE -In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 file photo, rain clouds gather over a pumping station at Marconi Drive and lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. Flood-weary New Orleans braced Thursday for the weekend arrival of Tropical Storm Nate, forecast to hit the area Sunday morning as a weak hurricane that could further test a city drainage system in which weaknesses were exposed during summer deluges. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
FILE -In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 file photo, rain clouds gather over a pumping station at Marconi Drive and lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. Flood-weary New Orleans braced Thursday for the weekend arrival of Tropical Storm Nate, forecast to hit the area Sunday morning as a weak hurricane that could further test a city drainage system in which weaknesses were exposed during summer deluges. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

When Tropical Storm Nate formed and forecasts put New Orleans in its projected path for this weekend, one big question loomed for residents and business owners: Will the pumps work?

"That's now a thought in everybody who lives in New Orleans," said Devin Shearman, a manager at Katie's restaurant and lounge, which flooded during an unexpected rainstorm Aug. 5. It was one of two flash floods this past summer that led to revelations about personnel and equipment problems at the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, the agency that runs the pumping system that drains the city.

Some pumps weren't working. Some turbines that provide power to the pumps were down. There weren't enough people on hand to man the system.

"Since early August, we have made substantial progress," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said of work to upgrade the city drainage system. But he warned at a Thursday news conference that extremely heavy rain and storm surge from Nate still could pose flood dangers.

Nate formed in the western Caribbean Sea and moved into Central America on Thursday. Forecasters said it would likely emerge in the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen, possibly reaching hurricane strength before a Sunday morning landfall somewhere along the Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama coast. Officials in the resort town of Grand Isle on a vulnerable barrier island south of New Orleans called a voluntary evacuation Thursday. To the east, in coastal St. Bernard Parish, authorities ordered an evacuation of areas not protected by levees.

In the center of Nate's possible destinations was New Orleans, where the summer floods shook public confidence in the Sewerage and Water Board.

It's a state-created agency governed by a board that includes the mayor and appointees of the mayor and the City Council.

After the Aug. 5 revelations, the agency's executive director, Cedric Grant, resigned. Landrieu announced the appointment of a new six-member emergency team to run the agency, make immediate upgrades and recommend long-term changes.

The team is headed by veteran emergency expert Paul Rainwater.

"It's an antiquated system," Rainwater said Thursday, as he discussed his work and the decisions ahead on what will be needed in terms of equipment and personnel.

As of Thursday, city officials said, 108 of 120 pumps and 26 power generators were in place to back up working turbines. Also, the city said efforts to clean thousands of street catch basins had been stepped up, with vacuum trucks dispatched to various areas to suck out thick mud and debris.

Long-term, a major question facing the city is whether to stick with nearly century-old pumps, which cost a lot of money and manpower to maintain but last longer than newer pumps that are reported to have shorter lifespans.

Many are also questioning where the S&WB leadership needs to rest. One option is reducing its autonomy — making it a department directly under the mayor with scrutiny from the council. It's a suggestion New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux has made to the mayor and City Council in letters for years.

Meanwhile, city officials must deal with the public's shaken faith in the drainage system.

The Sewerage and Water Board's emergency management team also included a new public relations director — a result of early, erroneous initial statements that the pumps were all working during the Aug. 5 floods.

"There was a lot of misinformation, or lies, frankly, about where we stood," City Council President Jason Williams said in a recent interview. "Moving forward, we've got to make sure that the Sewerage & Water Board is transparent to the public and to all branches of government, because clearly that wasn't happening, and that there's veracity, just being really honest."

Williams said in a recent interview that council members recently learned pumping capacity wasn't tested ahead of the hurricane season that began June 1.

"It's not a time to figure out things when you're under water and when you're in a kayak," he said.

"I'm glad they're addressing it, finally, but I don't know if you can get my approval for addressing it now, after something's happened," said Shearman, who says patrons were stranded in the restaurant for hours in August when water in the streets was thigh-high. "Trust can be brought back. It's not going to come overnight though. It's going to take a lot of time."

Vegetables sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's recalled for Listeria

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:43 PM

Mann Packing recalled various vegetable products over Listeria concerns. (Photo: Food and Drug Administration)
Mann Packing recalled various vegetable products over Listeria concerns. (Photo: Food and Drug Administration)

Mann Packing is voluntarily recalling various vegetable products sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's and Target over concerns of Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The company said “a single positive” test result in random sampling by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency sparked the decision to issue the recall notice. Listeria infection can cause fever, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms and even miscarriages.

"As an owner of this company and a mom, providing safe and healthy foods to our consumers and their families is always our top priority," Gina Nucci, director of corporate marketing, said in a release.

The recall includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli and vegetable medley products distributed throughout the United States and Canada with “best if used by” dates from Oct. 11 to 20.

Affected items include:

  • Walmart 12-oz. bags of broccoli cauliflower florets, broccoli florets and stir fry medley, 32-oz. bags of broccoli florets, 16-oz. bags of broccoli slaw, 10-ounce bags of cauliflower florets and super blend, 6/16-oz. bags of cauliflower and 2-lb. bags of vegetable medley.

  • Trader Joe's, 10-ounce bags of kohlrabi salad blend.

  • Archer Farms 12-oz. bags of broccoli slaw, broccoli cauliflower florets, broccoli medley and brussels sprouts, 9-oz. bags of shaved brussels sprouts and 10-oz. bags of cauliflower florets.

Aldi supermarkets also issued recall notices for Mann products.

Conjoined twins thriving after surgery to separate them

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 8:33 PM

Conjoined twins were separated and are thriving. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)
Conjoined twins were separated and are thriving. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)

Conjoined twins from Mooresville are thriving nearly five months after a long surgery to separate them.

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Erin and Abby DeLaney, 15-month-old girls, were attached at the top of their heads.

Their surgery, which was on June 6, took 11 hours, but it was a success. They were recently discharged from the hospital.

The family said it is grateful to the team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Priscilla Presley parts ways with Church of Scientology, reports say

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 8:06 PM

File photo.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Dream Foundation)
Jesse Grant
File photo. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Dream Foundation)(Jesse Grant)

Priscilla Presley has quit the Church of Scientology, 40 years after she joined, according to the Daily Mail.

“I’ve had enough. I’m done,” Presley reportedly said.

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Presley — who initially joined the church after the death of her husband, Elvis — allegedly told friends she was leaving.

The church’s membership includes a long list of Hollywood celebrities, including John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

“Priscilla reached out to John Travolta after Elvis died in 1977, and that’s how she ended up in the church,” the source said. “She has been in it ever since, and she raised her daughter, Lisa Marie, in it.”

Lisa Marie Presley left the church in 2014, which apparently made remaining with the church a difficult task for her mother.

“They are very close as a family, and leaving the church has been a family decision,” the source claims.

In recent years, several celebs have ditched the church, including Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman, who are both ex-wives of Tom Cruise, still a member himself. The testimonies and interviews of former member Leah Remini; one of the stars of the popular sitcom, “King of Queens,” appear to be impacting the church.

Halloween display of nude, disfigured hanging dolls ‘disgusting,’ neighbors say

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 4:46 PM

An eerie  hanging doll display pictured here in Mexico is a tourist attraction, but a similar display at a home in Plymouth, Mich., prompted police complaints. The display was removed.
Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
An eerie  hanging doll display pictured here in Mexico is a tourist attraction, but a similar display at a home in Plymouth, Mich., prompted police complaints. The display was removed.(Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Residents in a neighborhood in Plymouth, Michigan, said they were shocked and a little disturbed by a Halloween display they said crossed the line.

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The display featured nude and disfigured dolls bound and hanging from a tree with tape over their  eyes and in various other places.

It was just one of the many displays in a yard full of ghoulish decorations, including gravestones and skulls.

"I think they're cute when they're spooky, but I don't like hers," neighbor Marilyn Yoe told WXYZ.

 

"My grandkids say why would you hang babies in a tree? That's no Halloween."

Yoe wasn’t alone. Other neighbors complained, too.

"I think it's disgusting," KC Gibson said. 

"You see all the ghosts and jack-o'-lanterns on people's porches and then dolls representing little kids being hung from a tree, and that's not what Halloween is about," Gibson told WXYZ.

Plymouth police received multiple calls about the disturbing display, but said the hanging dolls weren’t breaking any laws.

Yoe said that while she didn’t like the display, her neighbors have the right to display anything they want in their yard.

>> Related: Homeowner creates amazing Halloween light show, synced with ‘Feel It Still’

WXYZ reported the family that lives in the house is on vacation, but another relative has since removed the dolls.