New Orleans braces as Tropical Storm Barry forms; Storm expected to hit Louisiana as a hurricane Saturday

Tropical Storm Barry, the second named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, formed Thursday morning in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s expected to hit the Gulf Coast as a hurricane on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.

People cope with the aftermath of severe weather in the Broadmoor neighborhood in New Orleans, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. x (Photo: Nick Reimann, The Advocate via AP)

A tropical storm warning was put in effect Thursday for the Louisiana coast from the mouth of the Pearl River to Morgan City.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency, warning that the “entire coast of Louisiana is at play in this storm.” 

He said National Guard troops and high-water vehicles would be positioned all over the state.

Mandatory evacuations for some 10,000 people were ordered Thursday for portions of the east bank of Plaquemines Parish, which encompasses the last 70 miles of the Mississippi River before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters said that Louisiana – the bull’s-eye of the emerging storm – could see up to 12 inches of rain by Monday, with some isolated areas receiving up to 18 inches.

“The slow movement of this system will result in a long duration heavy rainfall threat along the central Gulf Coast and inland through the lower Mississippi Valley through the weekend and potentially into next week,” the weather service said.

A satellite image shows Tropical Storm Barry spinning in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning. (Photo: NOAA)

The warning emerged on the same day that a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration report warned Americans of a “floodier” future, with some streets in Louisiana’s largest city, including in the famed French Quarter, looking more like rivers.

In New Orleans, an early line of thunderstorms dumped as much as seven inches of rain within a three-hour period Wednesday morning, leaving up to four feet of water in some streets.

City officials asked residents to have at least three days of supplies on hand and to keep their neighborhood storm drains clear so water can move quickly.

That heavy rain could push the swollen Mississippi River dangerously close to the top of the city’s levees, officials cautioned.

Ricky Boyett, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans said the agency was not expecting widespread overtopping of the levees, but there are concerns for areas south of the city.

“We’re confident the levees themselves are in good shape,” he said. “The big focus is height.”

The river was expected to rise to 20 feet by late Friday at a key gauge in New Orleans. The area is protected by levees 20 to 25 feet high, he said.

After Wednesday’s onslaught of heavy rain, Valerie R. Burton said her neighborhood looked like a lake outside her door.

The sun is now up on what will soon become a Tropical Depression. Landfall intensity is still a bit uncertain, but what we do know is flooding is the main concern. Especially in SE Louisiana.

“There was about three to four feet of water in the street, pouring onto the sidewalks and at my door,” Burton said. “I went to my neighbors to alert them and tell them to move their cars.”

The rapidly rising waters brought memories of a 2017 flash flood that exposed major problems – and led to major personnel changes – at the Sewerage and Water Board, which oversees street drainage.

City officials said the pumping system that drains streets was at full capacity. But the immense amount of rain in three hours would overwhelm any system, said Sewerage and Water Board director Ghassan Korban.

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