Louisiana Heat Wave 2012: Temps Rise In New Orleans As Morgan City Faces Power Shortages

06/28/2012 11:01 am ET | Updated Aug 28, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With temperatures in the 90s on Wednesday, tourist carriages left the French Quarter empty after just one round — it was too hot for the mules that pull them to work any longer. Human-drawn pedicabs were few and far between as Louisiana settled in for another day of sweltering heat.

Eighty miles west, Morgan City was without power and crews were trying to get its steam plant up and running after the transformer that lets the city buy power from Cleco Corp. exploded in flames.

If the Utilities Department couldn't get the larger of two steam generators going by nightfall Wednesday, a dusk-to-dawn curfew for Morgan City's 12,500 residents would continue for a second night, said Mayor Tim Matte.

He said the smaller generator was supplementing Cleco's power when the transformer blew about 6 p.m. Tuesday. The larger generator produces enough power for overnight use but not for daytime use, he said.

An upper-level high-pressure ridge over Louisiana kept skies sunny and temperatures in the upper 90s, though a second day of 100-degree temperatures wasn't expected. Heat coupled with light winds brought ozone and air pollution warnings from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The air quality index in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lake Charles would be unhealthy for sensitive groups both Wednesday and Thursday, a news release said, and ozone formation was likely in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John, St. Tammany, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.

New Orleans tour guides Tommy Cook and Robert Rotherham had to head back empty to the stable after giving one carriage tour Wednesday.

"We have to take the mules in when it hits 95," said Rotherham, who cupped water in his hands to coax his mule, Miss Pierre, to drink from a cement trough.

The temperature was 97 by 10:30 a.m., forcing a short day for buggy drivers in a city where July's Essence Music Festival was created partly to boost a slow season.

Cook said an evening crew of mules and drivers would go out when the temperature fell. "Once an animal has been out, even if it's just for an hour, and we take her back in, she's out for the rest of the day," he said.

People-powered vehicles had no heat restrictions.

At about 10 a.m., a light sheen of sweat glistened on Powers Wartman's arms as he waited for fares under the canopy of his pedicab.

"The heat's not that bad if you're not that busy," said Wartman, who keeps jugs of chilled water and sports drinks in a compartment under the seat of his pedicab. "Staying out all day, you get used to it."

Mike Cooper, who poses as a gold statue of a ragged-winged angel, took a break from the incessant sun under a soft drink cart's umbrella. Tuesday he'd made about $50, but in 2½ hours Wednesday morning he'd made just $1, he said.

"During the day, when it is really hot, people aren't going to come," he said, showing vampire-style porcelain tooth caps. "They're going to stay in. They start coming out about 2, 2:30 (p.m.), when the sun starts to cool a little bit."

Although his spray-painted long-sleeved shirt and pants get hot, he said, he wears a T-shirt and shorts underneath. "It keeps the paint off me. The T-shirt underneath gets wet. When it's kind of windy, the air circulates underneath and keeps me cool."

Then he returned to work, squatting motionless atop an anti-traffic pillar.

Alex McMillan, 9, of Lake Charles scooted up to drop a dollar in Cooper's bucket. Back with his parents, he had a question: "Is he real?"

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