NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans is better able to handle heavy rain than it was on Aug. 5, when flash flooding revealed problems with the city’s drainage system, city officials said Wednesday as they outlined preparations for dealing with a tropical weather system in the Gulf of Mexico.

But they declined to estimate how much rain the system can handle, noting ongoing repairs to pumps and generating systems and beefed up manpower.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of what happened, what capacity really is,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s spokesman, Tryonne Walker, said at a news conference outside City Hall. But he said the city’s current focus is on continuing repairs to pumps and power generating turbines, making sure all pumping stations have needed personnel on hand, as well as backup power, and making sure the public gets fast and accurate information.

All those areas turned out to be lacking when flash floods hit streets, homes and businesses in parts of the city on Aug. 5, despite initial assurances from the city that pumps and drainage systems were working at full capacity.

The news conference came after the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey developed into a tropical depression. Forecasters say the storm could be a hurricane by the time it hits land Friday. It’s expected to hit Texas but heavy rain — as much as 10 to 15 inches — could hit Louisiana and Mississippi through Tuesday.

Officials weren’t ready to say whether they believed evacuations might be needed. “While current models will become clear in the next 24 to 48 hours, they will likely change as the system draws closer,” said city homeland security director Aaron Miller.

As state and local officials monitored the storm, authorities in various communities urged residents to clean gutters and catch basins in on streets in front of their properties. In Thibodaux (TIB-uh-doh), Mayor Tommy Eschete (ESH-tay) warned in a news release Wednesday that empty garbage cans with unattached covers can get lodged in culverts, obstructing drainage.

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KEVIN McGILL
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