Hurricane Barry Saturday pushed ashore along the Louisiana coast west of New Orleans Saturday and quickly weakened to a tropical storm. But its torrential downpours still promisethe risk of “life-threatening” inland floods in Louisiana and Mississippi, the National Weather Service said.
Barry, which earlier packed just enough sustained winds — 75 mph — to qualify as the nation’s first hurricane this season, went ashorenear Intracoastal City, about 150 miles west of New Orleans,according to the National Hurricane Center.
Moving overland, Barry quickly dropped to 70 mph, falling back to tropical storm status while remaining a threat into next week from heavy rain.
Forecasters said Barry could unload 10 to 20 inches of rain through Sunday across a swath of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as southwestern Mississippi, with pockets in Louisiana getting 25 inches.
NHC Director Ken Graham warned slow-moving rain cells would create especially dangerous flooding conditions in southeastern Louisiana, as well as Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and parts of Tennessee into next week.
A police chief captured footage of flooding along a road in Golden Meadows, Louisiana as the Gulf Coast braces for Hurricane Barry.
“When you put that much rain down in areas around Baton Rouge and Mississippi, those rivers and creeks are filling quickly,” he said. Graham urged residents to heed local authorities and stay off the roads when the flooding begins.
“That is just an amazing amount of moisture,” he said on Facebook Live, pointing to a weather data board. “That is off the chart.”
Hurricane Barry is intensifying in the northern Gulf, and the threat of widespread flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi looms over the next 48 to 72 hours.
Ryan Truchelut, WeatherTiger
That is a lot of rain: How will Barry compare to Louisiana’s 2016 flooding?
Graham stressed that in the past three years, inland flooding has accounted for 83% of the deaths during tropical cyclones, half of those in vehicles.
The hurricane brings a tornado threat, too. The highest-risk area is on the east side of the storm, along the Mississippi coast, and Mobile Bay.
As the storm drew closer Saturday morning, the Coast Guard said it was rescuing more than a dozen people stranded by flooding on a remote Louisiana island that has been shrinking for years.
Petty Officer Lexie Preston told the Associated Press some of the people were on rooftops on the Isle de Jean Charles, about 45 miles south of New Orleans. He said four people and a cat had been removed by helicopter and a boat was heading to the area to help get the rest of the people off the island.
Anthony Verdun chose to ride it out in his home in Isle de Jean Charles despite watching the water rise eight feet in 10 minutes near his raised house.
Verdun, noting his refrigerator was still stocked with a fresh catch of fish from Friday, said he waved off a Coast Guard helicopter Saturday morning that hovered above his house, one of the highest on the island.
“I gave them the all good,” Verdun said via text message. “My son is in the (Coast Guard) and he told me how to signal so we signaled back, ‘All clear.’ “
Early Saturday, water spilled over a “back levee” in Myrtle Grove, about 25 miles due south of New Orleans. Initial reports said thevideofrom Plaquemines Parish appeared to show water topping a levee onthe Mississippi river but, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, was not located on the river itself, but at a pump station.
Edwards assured residents that the levees were “stronger than they’ve ever been” and that the state was better prepared than ever.
More than 60,000 people were without power as the hurricane approached Louisiana’s south-central coast Saturday morning. Nearly a fourth of those outages were in coastal Terrebonne Parish. A number of other southern parishes were affected, including Jefferson Parish outside of New Orleans.
The threat to New Orleans diminished late Friday. Officials said the levee system would crest Monday at only 17 feet at the critical Carrollton gauge. That is about three feet lower than a previous forecast and two feet below the levee’s height.
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city 14 years ago, the governor said all floodgates were sealed in Hurricane Risk Reduction System. The city did not offer any sandbags, although some businesses did make them available.
Residents of the Big Easy had been urged to “shelter in place” in lieu of evacuation orders, which are normally issued only for Category 3 hurricanes.
Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Andrew J. Yawn, Leigh Guidry, Nick Siano, Lafayette Daily Advertiser; Greg Hilburn, Monroe News-Star; Associated Press
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