Officials have urged residents in Louisiana and Mississippi to prepare for a long weekend of potentially catastrophic weather as Tropical Storm Barry, the first major storm of the season, takes aim at low-lying regions in the South.
The storm has been forming in the Gulf of Mexico, gathering strength as it prepares to make landfall sometime Friday or early this weekend. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a hurricane warning for some parts of Louisiana, saying Barry could become a Category 1 storm by late Friday. Massive rain and flooding are expected in large swaths of the region.
The storm was about 85 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River late Thursday.
“There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along the coast of southern and southeastern Louisiana,” the NHC said late Thursday. “Residents in these areas should rush their preparations to completion, as tropical storm conditions are expected to arrive in the warning area by Friday morning.”
Officials said they were troubled by Barry’s slow movement, warning that the storm could bring long-lasting, heavy rainfall and possibly “significant” flash flooding.
The NHC said Barry could drop 10 to 20 inches of accumulated rain over the two states before it moves on. However, in some areas, the storm could bring as much as 25 inches of rain, officials warned.
The Mississippi River is already surging, with water levels far above normal.
Officials in New Orleans said they were hopeful that the city’s levee system would withstand any threats from Barry. The Army Corps of Engineers told NOLA.com it was “confident” in its safety measures on Thursday evening, but workers were shoring up any low areas in anticipation of the storm.
The city, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is currently under a tropical storm warning.
President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency in Louisiana ahead of the storm, allowing the state to access emergency resources. Earlier that day, Gov. John Bel Edwards had requested the declaration, writing that he was “confident that there will be widespread, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding.”
“Given these threats, I anticipate the need for emergency protective measures, evacuations and sheltering for the affected areas,” Edwards wrote.
The governor issued a warning to residents on Thursday, saying that Louisiana is particularly susceptible to flooding, but he expressed hope that the Mississippi would not overflow its levees.
“There are three ways that Louisiana can flood: storm surge, high rivers and rain,” Edwards said. “We’re going to have all three.”