Tropical Storm Barry, threatening to drop as much as 20 inches of rain and whip up dangerous storm surges along the Gulf of Mexico, is anticipated to make landfall as a hurricane, officials said Friday.
President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency for Louisiana late Thursday, ordering U.S. government assistance to state and local response efforts. Barry’s slow movement over the warm gulf is anticipated to increase the storm’s power to at least a Category 1 hurricane designation, according to a National Hurricane Center update Friday afternoon.
New Orleans issued a shelter-in-place order to go into effect at 8 p.m. local time as residents rushed to prepare themselves for the worst. Floodgates were closed throughout the city in anticipation of life-threatening flooding along the central Gulf Coast and into the Lower Mississippi Valley due to the storm’s slow movement.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning Friday afternoon for parts of Louisiana as Barry inched along a west-northwest track at about 5 mph.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was confident that the Mississippi River wouldn’t overtop levees but urged residents to take maximum precautions.
“This is going to be a major rain event across a huge portion of Louisiana,” Edwards, who authorized the activation of up to 3,000 National Guard personnel, told reporters. “Look, there are three ways Louisiana floods — storm surge, high rivers and rain. We’re going to have all three.”
Forecasters anticipate Barry could bring about 19 to 20 feet of storm surge to the Mississippi River with a crest expected early Saturday morning. The city’s levees can protect against 20 feet in the lowest areas and up to 25 feet at its highest points.
New Orleans has 24 pump stations, which contain 99 stormwater management pumps and 21 dry-weather pumps and is comprised of more than 68,000 catch basins, 1,400 miles of lateral, underground drainage pipes, 280 miles of open and underground canals, NBC-affiliate station WDSU reported.
Richard Rainey, of the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, told WDSU that the pumps could become overwhelmed if massive amounts of rain hit the area in a short period of time. On Wednesday, 8 inches of rain fell over a three-hour span.
“So if we get that kind of volume and that kind of intensity, you’ll see street flooding,” Rainey told WDSU.
The town of Grand Isle, Louisiana, south of New Orleans, ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents at noon Thursday. Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans, had already started evacuating residents Wednesday afternoon.
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