12 July 2019
New Orleans braces for ‘triple-threat’ Barry: Millions prepare for a Category 1 Hurricane set to hit Saturday morning bringing with it storm surge, high rivers and rain, testing post-Katrina flood defenses
- Wind and rain began battering Louisiana on Friday as forecasters predict landfall as a hurricane by Saturday
- Forecasters said rain poses the greatest danger as the state experiences a long, slow and thorough drenching
- The City of New Orleans ordered its citizens to take shelter from 8 pm Friday after stocking up on key supplies
- Its governor said flooding can result from ‘storm surge, high rivers and rain’ and ‘we’re going to have all three’
- It also issued voluntary evacuation orders for those outside the levee system in anticipation of a deadly surge
- Barry is threatening a storm surge up to 3ft at the mouth of the Mississippi which is already unusually swollen
- The low-lying New Orleans area could get up to 15 inches of rain through Sunday and is already partly flooded
- The rains will test the city’s updated flood defenses since it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005
- Dramatic drone footage shows the coastal town of Grand Isle submerged in water as the storm surge rolls in
New Orleans is bracing for a triple threat of storm surge, river and rain as Tropical Storm Barry gathers strength and is set to hit on Saturday morning as a Category 1 Hurricane, unleashing downpours that will test the city’s post-Katrina flood defenses.
New Orleans’ governor warned of an ‘extreme rain event’ and said it would be the first time a hurricane made landfall in Louisiana when the Mississippi River was already at flood stage.
‘There are three ways that Louisiana can flood: storm surge, high rivers and rain,’ Governor John Bel Edwards said at a news conference on Friday. ‘We’re going to have all three.’
(CNN) Tropical Storm Barry presents New Orleans with an unprecedented problem, according to the National Weather Service.
The Mississippi River, which is usually at 6 to 8 feet in midsummer in the Big Easy, is now at 16 feet, owing to record flooding that’s taken place this year all along the waterway.
In the meantime, Barry is spinning away in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening a storm surge of 2 to 3 feet at the mouth of the river, said Jeffrey Graschel, a hydrologist with the weather service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, Louisiana.
The unusual confluence of factors adds up to a forecast that has the river cresting Saturday at 19 feet, a level not seen since February 1950 and about 2.3 feet shy of the record set in April 1922, the weather service said Thursday.
“This is the first time we’ve had a tropical system with water levels on the river this high,” he said.
Although the slow-moving storm was expected to roll in as a weak hurricane in terms of wind speeds, it is prompting fears of deadly flooding in the whole region as forecasters said it 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.
‘Nobody should take this storm lightly just because it’s supposed to be a Category 1 when it makes landfall,’ Edwards said. ‘The real danger in this storm was never about the wind anyway. It’s always been about the rain.’
This map shows Tropical Storm Barry swirling in the Gulf of Mexico at around 1 pm on Friday. Pockets of Louisiana could get as much as 25 inches of rain, causing dangerous flash flooding and pooling
Grand Isle is one of the low-lying areas in coastal Louisiana already covered in water on Friday as Barry’s storm surge rolled in
Dramatic drone footage shows the town of Grand Isle, which lies on a narrow barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, submerged by the incoming storm surge
The City of New Orleans ordered its citizens to take shelter as Louisiana braces for Tropical Storm Barry to bring rain and deadly flooding when it makes landfall as a Category 1 Hurricane on Saturday morning.
‘Shelter in place by 8pm, stay off the streets of New Orleans for your safety and the safety of our first responders,’ the city’s official Twitter account posted, also saying that residents ‘should be wrapping up preparedness activities’ on Friday afternoon.
Officials also issued voluntary evacuation orders for those outside the city’s levee system in anticipation of a deadly storm surge between three to six feet.
The National Hurricane Center advised: ‘Strengthening is forecast before landfall, and Barry is expected to be a hurricane when the center reaches the Louisiana coast on Saturday. Weakening is expected after Barry moves inland.’
Utility repair crews with bucket trucks moved into position in the region. Homeowners sandbagged their property or packed up and left. And tourists crowded New Orleans’ airport in hopes of catching an early flight and getting out of town ahead of the storm.
Conditions in Grand Isle are expected to continue to deteriorate until roads are completely impassable later today as Storm Barry churns towards the state
A staging area for the Louisiana National Guard is pictured as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in New Orleans. High-water vehicles and boats are staged in more than 20 communities
The Louisiana National Guard has been authorized to activate up to 3,000 soldiers and airmen as Storm Barry approaches the state
Blockades full of sand block a road ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Barry on Friday as Louisiana braces heavy rains, storm surge and flooding
Shocking drone footage shows the extent of the flooding already unleashed on Louisiana’s coastal communities by Tropical Storm Barry as it built toward hurricane strength and began battering parts of the state with wind and rain on Friday.
Homes and roads can be seen submerged by the incoming storm surge in the town of Grand Isle, a vulnerable island community which sits eight feet below sea level in the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans.
The town of 1,400 people is one of the parishes ordered to evacuate; orders were also issued for areas of Plaquemines Parish, and for low-lying communities in Jefferson Parish.
Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle’s order took effect at noon Thursday on Grand Isle, which is accessible only by boat or a single flood-prone state highway.
‘When the tide comes in from the north side of the island or the back side of the island, that could cause severe flooding,’ Camardelle said.
Conditions here are expected to continue to deteriorate until roads are completely impassable later in the day.
It was just one of the low-lying areas in coastal Louisiana already covered with water Friday as the tide rose and the storm pushed water in from the Gulf of Mexico.
A dramatic satellite image shows Tropical Storm Barry churning towards Louisiana’s coastline just before noon on Friday
As of 2pm Friday, Tropical Storm Barry was about 100 miles southeast of Morgan City, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It needs wind speeds of at least 74 mph to be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, which it is expected to reach Friday night.
Barry is then forecast to make landfall near Marsh Island on Saturday between 2am and 8am, WRCBtv reported.
In a Friday morning tweet, the National Weather Service said tides are rising and water levels are expected to peak Saturday.
‘This is happening… Your preparedness window is shrinking,’ National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned. ‘It’s powerful. It’s strengthening. And water is going to be a big issue.’
The Mississipi River has been running at flood stage for months and will be coming up against a storm surge from the Gulf that will make it difficult for river water to flow out. Officials are warning of life-threatening flooding along the river
The Mississippi is already swollen prior to the arrival of Tropical Storm Barry and the Bonnet Carre Spillway is open draining water from the river to Lake Pontchartrain
The storm’s outer bands were beginning to lash metropolitan New Orleans Friday noon.
The low-lying city, bound by the Mississippi River on its south side, Lake Pontchartrain on its north side and tributaries leading into the nearby Gulf of Mexico on the east, fears a triple threat of storm surge, river and rain.
The storm could give New Orleans its worst drenching in decades, possibly eclipsing the city’s wettest day on record – 12.24 inches on May 8, 1995, forecasters said.
The rains are expected to pose a severe test of the improvements made in the city’s flood defenses since it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Massive rains have to be pumped out, taxing the city’s ancient and historically underfunded drainage system.
Since Katrina, authorities have poured tens of millions of dollars into generating enough power to keep pumps working. But an intense rainstorm or a slow-moving hurricane that sits over the city could overpower the system.
This map shows which areas will be affected by Barry. The storm is expected to bring more than a foot and a half of rain to parts of the state as it moves steadily inland
A flood gate for the Mississippi River is seen closed in the French Quarter as Storm Barry approaches. Barry’s rains are expected to test of the improvements made in the city’s flood defenses since it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005
The torrential rain could also cause life-threatening flooding along the Mississippi River, which has been running at flood stage for months, officials warned.
The New Orleans area is protected from the mighty river by levees, which have been strengthened over the years and are up to 25 feet high.
But even the reinforced levees could be under strain because of a rare confluence of events: The river, swelled by months of rain and snowmelt upriver, will be coming up against a storm surge from the Gulf that will make it difficult for river water to flow out.
Tropical Storm Barry will move ashore along the northern Gulf Coast Saturday morning, possibly as a hurricane.
- A major threat of rainfall flooding is in play over the northern Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley.
- New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are among the cities in a high risk for flooding rainfall.
- Hurricane, tropical storm and storm-surge warnings have been issued for the northern Gulf Coast.
- Storm-surge flooding will also add to the water worries, particularly along and east of Barry’s track.
- Power outages are likely in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Tropical Storm Barry is expected to make landfall Saturday as a hurricane along the northern Gulf Coast, spreading widespread torrential rain up the lower Mississippi Valley, leading to major river flooding and flash flooding in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, along with storm-surge flooding and strong winds.
(LATEST NEWS: Barry’s Impacts)
Hurricane Hunter aircraft missions Friday evening found Barry’s top sustained winds holding steady at about 65 mph. The center was about 75 miles off the Louisiana coast late Friday night, inching west-northwest at 3 mph.
While Barry is expected to become a hurricane before landfall, its water (rain, surge) impacts are bigger concerns than wind. Let’s begin by listing current watches and warnings in effect.
Watches and Warnings
Flash flood watches are in effect for parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle. This includes New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Jackson and Mobile.
A storm-surge warning has been issued for a portion of the southeastern and south-central Louisiana and Mississippi coast from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to Biloxi, Mississippi, and also for the north, west and east shores of Lake Pontchartrain. A warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coast within the next 36 hours.
Storm-surge watches are in effect from Biloxi, Mississippi, to the Mississippi/Alabama border. A watch means life-threatening inundation is possible within the area, generally within 48 hours.
(INTERACTIVE MAP: NHC Storm-Surge Watches/Warnings)
Hurricane warnings are in effect for a part of southern Louisiana, including Morgan City and Grand Isle. This means hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. These warnings are typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds (39-plus mph), conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued in much of southern and central Louisiana, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Alexandria. This means tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within the next 36 hours.
Hurricane watches are in effect in southern Louisiana from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Grand Isle and from Intracoastal City to Cameron. This means hurricane conditions are possible in the area within the next 48 hours.
Tropical storm watches cover the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. This means tropical storm conditions are possible in the area within the next 48 hours.
A Strange Storm
Barry remained a rather odd, lopsided tropical storm on Friday night, with most of its heavy thunderstorms located south of its center, due to a combination of northerly wind shear and drier air blowing over its center.
Showers and thunderstorms rotated into the Gulf Coast with brief heavy rain on Friday night, extending from far southeast Texas to the Big Bend of Florida.
Winds have been picking up along the Gulf Coast, and certainly over the Gulf, as measured by offshore buoys and oil platforms. Some gusts over 40 mph occurred in extreme southeast Louisiana near Boothville. The strongest winds were generally east of the center of Barry.
Waves have been building in the Gulf, particularly east of the center of Barry, with some significant offshore wave heights now over 15 feet.
Water levels from Grande Isle, Louisiana, to Waveland, Mississippi, were running 2 to 3 feet above normal tide levels late Friday night. On the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, water levels were slowly rising, measuring about 3 feet above normal at Lakeshore Park in New Orleans and about 4 feet where the Bonnet Carre Floodway empties into the lake west of New Orleans near LaPlace.
As Barry approaches, water levels are also rising on the Mississippi River at the Carrollton gauge in New Orleans. The river height was close to 17 feet late Friday evening, its highest level in more than eight years. The anticipated crest Saturday is a foot below the 20-foot height of river levees.
Barry will be drawn inland this weekend into the lower Mississippi Valley through a gap between a high-pressure system in the Rockies and an extension of the Bermuda high over the Bahamas and the Florida Peninsula.
Landfall should occur around Saturday morning, a few hours earlier/later if the center tracks along the right/left side of the forecast cone below.
Barry may be able to gain enough strength to become a hurricane prior to landfall.
Residents along the northern Gulf Coast should monitor the forecast closely, make sure their preparedness kit is ready to go, and heed all evacuation orders from local officials.
Regardless of whether Barry is a tropical storm or hurricane, a major threat of heavy rain and flash flooding is in play into early next week in the lower Mississippi Valley, due to Barry’s slow movement.
Typically, these types of tropical cyclones produce their heaviest rain along and to the east of their tracks.
Heavy rain is expected in much of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as parts of Arkansas, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.
This heavy rain will persist in some areas well after the center moves ashore and could last into Monday, or even Tuesday.
The NHC suggests 10 to 20 inches of rain could fall through early next week in southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, with isolated totals up to 25 inches. The remainder of the lower Mississippi Valley could pick up 4 to 8 inches of rain, with localized amounts up to 12 inches. Rainfall could also total 4 to 8 inches over western parts of the Tennessee Valley by early next week.
These amounts of rain are expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding over portions of the northern Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley. River flooding is likely to last for several days, if not over a week in some areas.
At least one river – the Comite River near Comite Joor Road, in the northeast Baton Rouge area – is now predicted to crest at record levels on Monday, according to a NOAA forecastissued Friday night. The forecast crest of 34.5 feet would top the 34.22 feet observed in the catastrophic flood of August 2016.