With miles of waterfront in three directions, New Orleans is partly peninsular. The heart of the city spreads around a curve of the Mississippi River—source of the nickname "Crescent City"—while edging Lake Pontchartrain on the north. Lake Pontchartrain connects to Lake Borgne, a broad opening to the Gulf of Mexico. Lakes, marshlands, and bayous extend from the city in all directions. Louisiana is divided into parishes rather than counties; New Orleans itself occupies the entirety of Orleans Parish, while metropolitan New Orleans extends west into St. Charles, St. John, and St. James; south into Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes, and north into St. Tammany Parish, and into other parishes as well.
A humid, semi-tropical climate in New Orleans is kept from extremes by surrounding waters. While snowfall is negligible, rain occurs throughout the year. Waterspouts caused by small tornadoes are frequently seen on nearby lakes.
Area: 181 square miles (2000)
Elevation: Ranges from 5 feet below sea level to 15 feet above; mean elevation, 5 feet above sea level
Average Temperatures: January, 51.3° F; July 81.9° F; annual average, 68.1° F
Average Annual Precipitation: 61.88 inches