A tropical depression is expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, with the potential to become a hurricane by late Friday, the National Hurricane Center says. Forecasters say the storm could bring a storm surge and heavy rains to Louisiana.
If it forms as expected, the storm would be labelled Tropical Storm Barry. It could bring a storm surge of 3-6 feet to a coastal area that is already struggling to cope with massive amounts of floodwaters that have gorged the Mississippi River in recent weeks.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency for his entire state, warning, “No one should take this storm lightly. As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact.”
The system is currently some 115 miles south-southeast of the Mississippi River’s mouth in Louisiana. On Thursday morning, its maximum winds were only 35 mph — but it’s expected to strengthen as it creeps to the west and north.
Louisiana officials have already begun preparing for the storm. As member station WWNO reports, LSU is shutting down its campus on Friday and officials are telling residents along the coast to “heed every single warning” about what will is expected to be a dangerous storm.
The last storm named Barry stalled out as a tropical storm in 2013; this one could become a hurricane within 48 hours.
“Hurricane conditions are possible across the north-central Gulf Coast in a couple of days,” the hurricane center says.
The hurricane center has issued three alerts for the expected storm:
- A Storm Surge Watch from the mouth of the Pearl River at the Louisiana-Mississippi border to Intracoastal City, south of Lafayette;
- A Hurricane Watch from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Cameron, La., near the Texas border;
- A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River northward to the Mouth of the Pearl River.
Forecasters say the system will likely bring drop more than a foot of rain in some areas, predicting “accumulations of 10 to 15 inches near and inland of the central Gulf Coast through early next week, with isolated maximum rainfall amounts of 20 inches.”
In addition to those threats, the hurricane center says that “a tornado or two are possible tonight and Friday across southern portions of Louisiana and Mississippi.”