NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Monday because of flooding and widespread power outages from storms that blew rail freight containers off the Huey P. Long Bridge and flooded streets and cut power across south Louisiana.
The governor’s move makes Louisiana eligible for federal disaster aid and allows state agencies to respond to local governments’ requests for help.
Assumption and Lafourche parishes declared emergencies to protect residents, respond to current floods and prepare for more, and other parishes are expected to declare emergencies, Jindal’s declaration said.
New Orleans’ international airport lost power, which wasn’t fully restored until early evening, spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut said. She said an alternate feed brought power back to the west side of the airport, but the east side, using a generator, had intermittent outages for much of the day.
Southwest Airlines canceled flights in and out of the airport about 4:30 p.m., Wilcut said. She said that by 5:30 p.m., nearly 60 flights had been canceled and 65 delayed.
High winds blew rail cars off the Huey P. Long Bridge, and the storm caused power failures at more than 200,000 homes and businesses from Leesville in the west to the New Orleans metro area in the east. Power had been restored to more than 55,000 customers by midafternoon.
Five rail cars carrying 10 freight containers fell from the bridge outside New Orleans, Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Jeff DeGraff said. “They were all double-stacked,” he said.
He said the train was moved Monday evening, but
The National Weather Service reported a 70 mph wind gust at the New Orleans airport.
“According to the crew, they were on the downslope of the bridge heading off the bridge and were working on pulling off onto a siding. Before they could get to that siding, … the five cars were blown off of the back end,” DeGraff said. “They were moving very slowly because they were looking to pull into a siding and being cautious at the weather.”
A video by WGNO-TV, taken through a windshield into driving rain, shows a double-stacked freight container tilting, then apparently pulling over the cars just ahead of and behind it. The big, rectangular containers fall ponderously to the ground, followed by the flat, wheeled platforms that had carried them. There is a bright flash as one car lands, followed almost immediately by a shower of sparks from a nearby power pole.
The flash was from a power line the containers or cars brought down; it did not start a fire, DeGraff said.
None of the containers held hazardous cargo, nobody was injured and the cars did not land on any vehicles or businesses, DeGraff said.
Trees blew down across south Louisiana, the weather service reported. One hit a house but residents got out safely, Thibodaux police said.
In New Orleans, a crew working to shore up a house got out just before it collapsed, WVUE-TV reported.
Entergy Louisiana, the state’s largest power company, reported more than 174,300 customers without power at one point. Cleco reported nearly 24,400, Swepco 10,000 and the Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative nearly 4,200. More than 140,000 were still without power at midafternoon.
Only 100 or so customers at Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative lost power during the rain, operations manager Michael Stafford said.
“Once the rain passed, we started getting tremendous winds. There was no rain, but the ground was saturated, and trees started falling,” he said.
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