Tropical Storm Barry might be a fairly weak hurricane when it makes landfall in Louisiana late Friday or early Saturday — but people in its path are far more worried about flood risks from its heavy rains and storm surge than the damage its winds could cause.
“Barry is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 20 inches over southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches,” the National Hurricane Center says. “These rains are expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding over portions of the central Gulf Coast into the Lower Mississippi Valley.”
As of 11 a.m. ET Friday, Barry’s maximum sustained winds had strengthened to nearly 65 mph, the hurricane center says, citing data from Hurricane Hunter aircraft. At the time, the storm was about 100 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River; forecasters say Barry could become a Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall.
A hurricane warning — meaning hurricane conditions are expected — has been declared for the area from Grand Isle (some 50 miles south of New Orleans) westward to Intracoastal City, which sits along the Vermilion River.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has already declared a state of emergency for the entire state; on Thursday, he said he has also ordered 3,000 National Guard members to be deployed in case they’re needed in rescue and recovery operations.
In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell says via Twitter, “High water vehicles and boats are pre-staged around the city should water rescues be necessary.”
For the past 24 hours, Barry has crept along at 5 mph, increasing concerns that it will slowly but steadily drench low-lying areas that have already been saturated with water in recent weeks.
Intense rainfall like Barry is expected to bring can trigger calamitous flooding. And with many areas along the lower Mississippi River already struggling to cope with huge amounts of rainwater from upriver, people in Louisiana and Mississippi are preparing for the worst.