A massive weather system has put more than four million people under flash flood watches, as a tropical depression intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm, which is expected to officially become a hurricane by late Friday, had maximum sustained winds of 30mph on Thursday. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conditions appear favourable for the system to strengthen to a hurricane that will bring storm surge, rainfall and wind hazards to the central Gulf Coast.
The potential Hurricane Barry is currently located about 125 miles (200km) south-southeast of the Mouth of the Mississippi River.
The storm is also about 235 miles (380km) southeast of Morgan City in the US state of Louisiana.
The weather system is currently moving west at about 5mph (7km/h).
But a west-northwest motion is expected on Friday followed by a northwestward track by early Saturday.
On the forecast track, the system is expected to approach the Louisiana coast this weekend.
Barry could bring storm surge, heavy rains and hurricane conditions across the North-Central Gulf Coast in a couple of days, NOAA warns.
A Storm Surge Watch is currently in effect for Mouth of the Pearl River to Intracoastal City.
A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours.
A Hurricane Watch has been issued for Mouth of the Mississippi River northward to the Mouth of the Pearl River.
The Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.
A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
A Tropical Storm Watch is also in effect for Mouth of the Mississippi River northward to the Mouth of the Pearl River.
NOAA adds interests elsewhere along the US Gulf Coast from the Upper Texas Coast to the Florida Panhandle “should monitor the progress of this system.”
Flash floods and heavy rains has already battered the city of New Orleans ahead of system that could become a hurricane by Friday.
Meteorologists have said the Mississippi River could rise to 19 feet by the weekend, just a foot short of the height of the city’s aging levees.
Ellen Austin, a high school teacher from California who was in town for a convention, told NBC affiliate WDSU of New Orleans: “Even though I grew up with Midwestern tornadoes and summer storms, this was next level in terms of the absolute deluge of water coming down so fast.”
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