Winter Weather Causes Water Problems in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The worst of the freezing weather was coming to an end Thursday in south Louisiana, but the big thaw posed problems, too.

Pipes damaged during two nights of unusually cold temperatures were thawing and leaking, leading to low water pressure in New Orleans and surrounding areas.

“The good news is that the temperatures are increasing out there and the ice is thawing,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a news conference in New Orleans. “The bad news is that’s presenting problems of its own.”

In St. John the Baptist Parish, Edwards said, low water pressure led to the transfer of about 170 inmates from the jail In St. John the Baptist Parish to a state facility. St. John officials earlier had urged people to stop using water to replenish the system.

Residents in New Orleans and several neighboring communities were asked to conserve water. And some communities, including large chunks of New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish, were under boil-water advisories because pressure was so low it raised the possibility of contamination.

It was a headache for businesses in the city. Some coffee shops and restaurants closed. At Satsuma restaurant in New Orleans, “We get all our biggest stock pots and start boiling water, so we have clean water that we can wash vegetables and wash our hands with,” said co-owner Mike Costantini. The restaurant provided bottled water for customers, but were unable to serve some items, such as hot coffee, he said.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said city facilities and schools in New Orleans would remain closed for a third day. Schools in neighboring areas also planned to stay closed.

In New Orleans, Landrieu called it “a cascading problem” that officials hoped to have solved by Monday. Once city officials and property owners find the leaks and shut off water service for repairs, pressure will build up. Then, it will take 24 hours to get test results to see if the water is safe to consume.

Temperatures in New Orleans were expected to sink to the freezing mark again overnight Thursday — but no more hard, pipe-busting freezes were forecast.

Other complications caused by the low water pressure: Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said some surgeries were canceled at Jefferson Parish hospitals because of water issues. And officials reported portable toilets and hand sanitizer were being provided at Louis Armstrong International Airport because water pressure to public restrooms was low.

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