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River's Risin'

Mayor Mitch Reiterates New Orleans is Safe from Miss. River Flooding, Live-Blogged



Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office gave NoDef some insight into how they're planning for the coming crest of the Mississippi River earlier this week. Today, with the River at 17 ft., the mayor is holding a news conference from City Hall on the flooding. We'll be live-blogging the news conference as the Mayor speaks.

 

3:15 p.m. The point of today's press conference seemed to be to assure everyone that New Orleans was not going to get flooded. This was not by any stretch a solemn press conference given by a mayor's office on emergency footing. Rather, it reinforced what the Army Corps of Engineers has been suggesting all week: The destruction is going to miss us this time. And if he could diffuse a little media alarmism in the process, so be it. The mayor was not asked about the City's response to Atchafalaya Basin residents who have been saying they're standing in harm's way of flooding from the Morganza Floodway to save New Orleans and Baton Rogue. Guess that one will have to wait for the next 60 Minutes interview!

With that, it's time for us to go count sandbags on the levee. Thanks to everyone for tuning in.

 

3:10 p.m. The mayor is asked if the Serpas speculation is blown out of proportion because the police chief and Eighth District Commander Edwin Hosli are involved. The mayor gives a long answer that tends toward the philosophical. He ends with, "That was not a 30-second sound byte." And that's a wrap.

 

3:08 p.m. Now we're off-topic. The inevitable question comes about Ronal Serpas and his future. Serpas son-in-law and driver were found to benefit from one of the recent shady police details. "He is my police chief now and will be for for the future," the mayor says.

 

3:05 p.m. The Mayor can't get off the stage without a joke about the press. "The media would never exaggerate anything, especially not WDSU," he says.

3:00 p.m. NoDef Editor B.E. Mintz asks a question about cracks in the levee. The cracks on the levee in the West Bank is due to the land side of the levee being extremely dry, " says McFly. "The clay shrinks, but there is no concern here. We're watching it very closely. When it rains these cracks will close up."

 

2:55 p.m. The mayor is back now, taking questions. He says the Morganza is expected to open in 24-72 hours. and the river will take 2-3 weeks to de-esclate in level after the crest. To a question about levee seepage, Doody says we are keeping track of where the seepage is, and as long as the levees in the French Quarter are not carrying materials away from the levee, we're fine. Seepage in the levees occur whenever the water reaches this height.

 

2:53 p.m. The head of the Port of New Orleans says everyday the river is closed costs the city $295 million, but right now it's business as usual.

 

2:51 p.m. Susan McFly of the Southeast La. Flood Protection Authority West says there are three areas of note in Algiers for potential seepage: an old levee in Algiers Point that was supposed to come down anyway, a levee in Plaquemines that protects Algiers and Todd Shipyards.

 

2:48 p.m. Tim Doody, president of the Southeast La. Flood Protection Authority East says the River saw these same levels in 2008. "We have time to prepare. It's not like a hurricane," he says.

 

2:45 p.m. Two Coast Guard aircraft are now flying the river to check the levees. Navigation is currently restricte on the 30 miles of the river surrounding NOLA. "If the water levels reach 17.5 ft. and continue to rise, I will require further restrictions on vessel navigation," says Capt. Edwin Stanton of the Coast Guard.

 

2:42 p.m. Now Jerry Sneed, the mayor's homeland security chief  takes the mic. All measures have been taken thus far. Mainly, he asks people to stay off the levees, and report any issues. Mark Jernigan, of the Corps, says no okay has been given on the Morganza Floodway yet, but the river is expected to reach a high enough level for the Corps to give the go-ahead this weekend. Along with the Bonnet Carre Spillway, the Morganza, located north of Baton Rogue, would divert floodwaters away from New Orleans. Otherwise, river levels could reach 19.5 ft. May 23.

 

2:40 p.m. Sandbagging is only a precaution. Landrieu tells everyone to stay off the levees. He then implies that river snakes might be on top of the levees right now. Inspection teams have to work, and they need room, he says.

 

2:32 p.m.  Mayor Mitch says, "Bottom line: the city is safe." We're not expected to flood due to the strong levee systems in place. The levees have been inspected, and the city is working overtime with the Army Corps of Engineers. He expects the Morganza Floodway will open, but no decision has been made.

 

2:30 p.m. The Mayor enters, and starts with a couple jokes. Then he extends sympathies to all the victims of the flooding so far. The Army, Coast Guard and FEMA are all in da house, along with the deputy mayors, the Army Corps, the head of the Port of New Orleans, and half the City Council. Serpas isn't there. Guess all the jockeying was for naught.

 

2:23 p.m. The river is currently hovering around 17 ft. in New Orleans, according to the National Weather Service. 

 

2:18 p.m. While we're waiting, it's worth pointing out the press conference comes as the River claimed its first Louisiana levee today. This AP has details.

 

2:15 p.m. Speculation abounds through the press gallery as the mayor is very late. Even the sign language translator is beginning to fidget. 

 

2:13 p.m. While waiting for Landrieu to emerge, we're told the mayor will be taking questions today, unlike a press conference last week when he announced the suspensions of two city officials involved in a shady police detail and quickly left the stage. There's a bit of jockeying for position on the City Hall stage as Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and a sign language interpreter both try to fit in the TV cameras' frame.

 

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

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