By ALAN SMASON
A freak rainstorm associated with a low pressure system that weather authorities expected to strengthen further in the Gulf of Mexico and become Tropical Storm or Hurricane Barry shut down Temple Sinai and both Jewish Community Center campuses earlier today, Wednesday, July 10. A tornado warning was issued earlier in the morning and a flash flood advisory was in effect through 7:00 p.m. for most of the area.
Orleans and Jefferson Parish officials have kept a wary eye on the Gulf of Mexico, paying close to National Oceanocraphic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) updates prior to the storm’s expected intensification. Earlier today, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the closure of the 244 storm gates found adjacent to the Mississippi River levee system.
N.O.A.A. updates at 10:00 p.m. found a closed circulation associated with the system, but the wind velocity was just under the threshold where it would be categorized as a tropical depression. Conditions continue to exist for further intensification into a tropical storm by tomorrow. Some models call for the storm to intensify into a hurricane by as early as Thursday with the possibility of strong winds accompanying very intense bands of thundershowers. Tornadoes spun off by the storm are also possible.
Earlier Wednesday morning, the storm brought with it heavy street flooding across the metropolitan area and the loss of power to as many as 14,000 homes, according to a spokesperson for Entergy.
Flood waters reached records levels around the Uptown JCC, according to JCC executive director Leslie Fischman. In a phone interview with the CCJN, Fischman reported that it took her more than two and a half hours to get to her office at the Uptown JCC by car and that she encountered flooded streets which impaired her path at several intersections along the way.
Many personnel for the JCC Day Camp as well as regular staff were unable to get to work, she advised. “Just about everybody who worked at the center was affected,” she said.
“We have such a large staff, which we need for a large (summer) camp, so we decided to err on the side of caution,” she continued. For the safety of its camp attendees and regular personnel, it was decided that both JCC campuses would be closed through Sunday.
“I didn’t want to put anyone else in jeopardy,” she explained. “I was scared myself,” Fischman added about her drive in to work.
Meanwhile, Temple Sinai was plunged into darkness at about 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, according to executive director Liz Yager, who was there early in an attempt to beat the rain. Entergy officials informed the Reform temple that power was not expected to be restored until 6:00 p.m. tonight.
Temple Sinai reopened for business as usual, but has been closed due to the storm.
Ghassan Korban, the executive director for the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, estimated that eight inches of rainwater fell onto the streets of New Orleans within a three-hour period. He claimed that 116 out of 118 pumps had been working at “optimum capacity.”
Both Mayor LaToya Cantrelle and Governor John Bel Williams declared New Orleans and South Louisiana as a disaster zone in advance of the storm’s passage near the city and its expected landfall east of Lake Charles and west of Morgan City.
Meanwhile, Touro Synagogue and Anshe Sfard reported no problems at their locations Uptown and the Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana Rohr Chabad Center at Tulane and Btesh Family Chabad House reported no damages to either of their facilities nor to the private residence of Rabbi Zelig Rivkin.
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin reported to the CCJN that his house was without power earlier in the day on Wednesdays. Entergy officials reported there were as many as 1,000 customers still without power at 10:00 p.m.