Tropical Storm Barry is intensifying in the northern Gulf, and the threat of widespread flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi looms over the next 48 to 72 hours.
Ryan Truchelut, WeatherTiger
Slow-moving Tropical Storm Barry, just shy of hurricane-strength, crawled toward a noon landfall Saturday west of New Orleans, bringing the threat of flooding along the Gulf Coast as far east as Alabama, with the heaviest rain pounding a area around New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
The National Hurricane Center said Barry is expected to dump from 10 to 20 inches of rain over south-central and southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, with some areas — facing 2 to 3 inches an hour — getting as much as 20 to 25 inches.
Nearly 50,000 people were without power as the tropical storm approached Louisiana’s south-central coast. Nearly a fourth of those outages were in coastal Terrebonne Parish. A number of other southern parishes were affected, including Jefferson Parish outside of New Orleans.
The threat to New Orleans diminished late Friday as officials said the critical levee system would crest at only 17 feet at the critical Carrollton gauge on Monday, which is about three feet lower than a previous forecast and two feet below the levee’s height.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, assured residents that the levees were “stronger than they’ve ever been” and that the state was better prepared than ever.
Residents of the Big Easy had been urged to “shelter in place” in lieu of evacuation orders, which are normally issued only for Category 3 hurricane.
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city 14 years ago, the governor said all floodgates were sealed in Hurricane Risk Reduction System. The city did not offer any sandbags, although some businesses did make them available.
Barry is expected to make landfall around mid-day Saturday as the first hurricane of the season near Morgan City, 85 miles west of New Orleans, with wind speeds of at least 74 mph. A hurricane warning was in effect along the Louisiana coast, from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle.
As of 4 a.m. CDT Saturday, Barry was 55 miles southwest of Morgan City, moving at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“The slow movement of Barry will result in a long duration heavy rainfall and flood threat along the central Gulf Coast, across portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley and north into the Tennessee Valley through the weekend into early next week,” John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the NHC. “Flash flooding and river flooding will become increasingly likely, some of which may be life-threatening, especially across portions of southeast Louisiana into Mississippi.”
Some 14 trillion gallons of rainwater is forecast to fall on Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas during Barry, according to an estimate from BAM Weather meteorologist Ryan Maue.
Governors declared emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Water levels have already begun to rise along the coast of southern and southeastern Louisiana, portions of Lake Pontchartrain, and portions of coastal Mississippi where a storm surge warning is in effect.
In the past three years, inland flooding has accounted for 83% of the deaths during tropical cyclones, half of those in vehicles, according to the agency.
That is a lot of rain: How will Barry compare to Louisiana’s 2016 flooding?
Rescue crews and about 3,000 National Guard troops were posted around Louisiana with boats, high-water vehicles and helicopters. President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency for Louisiana, authorizing federal agencies to coordinate relief efforts.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin, Doyle Rice, Leigh Guidry, USA TODAY; Nick Siano, Lafayette Daily Advertiser; Associated Press
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT
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