Barry makes landfall, downgraded to tropical storm

Darnell Taylor
July 14, 2019

Barry is expected to make landfall later this morning, most likely as a hurricane, about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans in Morgan City, Louisiana. "Don't let your guard down". It will become a hurricane once winds reach 74 miles per hour, and Barry could potentially come ashore as a Category 1 storm, the weakest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the NHC. Compounding concerns, on Saturday the National Weather Service warned of extreme weather capable of producing tornadoes that was approaching St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish, to the west of the Crescent City, as New Orleans is affectionately referred to. The Mississippi River, which threatened to overtop its levees after up to 10 inches of rain fell on the city Thursday, is no longer a threat to flood, but the city remains watchful.

The threat of major flooding from the historically high Mississippi River overtopping levees appeared to have passed, but the storm could still bring risky flooding and storm surges to coastal regions southwest of New Orleans and to Baton Rouge and Lafayette due to its "lopsided" nature and slow speed.

More than 45,000 people in southern Louisiana had lost power, and some roads were underwater as the edges of the storm lashed Louisiana and coastal MS and Alabama with rain. Forecasts showed the storm on a path toward Chicago that would swell the Mississippi River basin with water that must eventually flow south again.

Almost all businesses in Morgan City, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) west of New Orleans, were shuttered with the exception of Meche's Donuts Shop.

Meteorologists warned that torrential rain - as much as 2 feet (60 cm) in some places - could unleash severe flooding as the storm moves inland from the Gulf of Mexico, where oil and gas operations have already cut production by almost 60 percent. It has already pelted the state with heavy rain and left more than 46,000 people without power.

An evacuation order was also issued for all areas along both Brady Road and Highway 315 on Saturday afternoon.

Many locations have closed the water to swimmers.

Barry developed as a disturbance in the Gulf that stunned New Orleans during the Wednesday morning rush with a sudden deluge that flooded streets, homes and businesses.

The impending storm was widely seen as a key test of the fortified flood defences put in place following Katrina, which inundated much of the city and killed about 1,800 people. But by early Saturday evening, the city saw only intermittent rain and gusty winds, with occasional glimpses of sunshine.

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Oil and gas operators evacuated hundreds of platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

More than 70,000 customers were without power Saturday morning, including almost 67,000 in Louisiana and more than 3,000 in MS, according to poweroutage.us.

"There is no system in the world that can handle that amount of rainfall in such a short period", Cantrell said on Twitter.

"Weakening is expected as Barry moves farther inland, and it is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression on Sunday".

The downpours were also lashing coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

Residents in Louisiana and its largest city, New Orleans, hunkered down in preparation for rising waters brought by Barry. It was the first time since Katrina that all floodgates in the New Orleans area had been sealed. Officials were still confident that New Orleans' levees would hold firm. The levees protecting the city range from about 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 metres) in height. He welcomed the pre-storm respite from July's normal heat, but said he was mindful things could change: "I know we have to be on the alert". Still, he said he didn't expect the Mississippi River to spill over the levees despite water levels already running high from spring rains and melting snow upstream.

Barry is expected to turn toward the north-northwest tonight, followed by a turn toward the north on Sunday (July 14), NOAA said.

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect last name for one New Orleans resident.

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