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What To Know Ahead Of Tropical Storm Barry: Thursday, July 11

Satellite image of Tropical Storm Barry, when it was still Potential Tropical Cyclone 2.
Satellite image of Tropical Storm Barry, when it was still Potential Tropical Cyclone 2.

Last Update 5:00 p.m., July 11, 2019

The latest forecasts have Tropical Storm Barry making landfall no longer as a hurricane, but as a tropical storm, just west of Morgan City, on Saturday. However, forecasters say the storm could still grow to hurricane force as it approaches the coast.

The main concern is still rain. Most of the New Orleans area can expect 10-15 inches of rain, but some areas could get up to 20 inches. Areas near Morgan City and Houma are predicted to get the worst of the deluge -- 20 to 25 inches.

At a press conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards warned residents that this could be the first time a hurricane will make landfall in Louisiana while the Mississippi River is at flood stage.

“There are three ways Louisiana floods -- storm surge, high rivers and rain,” Edwards said. “We’re going to have all three.”

Parts of Plaquemines Parish and Jefferson Parish have been evacuated due to concerns over the Mississippi River overtopping the levee.

[Read more: Q&A with the Army Corps of Engineers about which levees will hold back Barry, and which won't]

Marketa Walters, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services, said the state will open a “mega-shelter” in Alexandria to receive people with critical needs, but that most evacuees will go to shelters designated by local officials.

Major General Glenn Curtiss, of the Louisiana National Guard, said up to 3,000 guardsmen will be mobilized and deployed near the greater New Orleans and Lafayette areas to conduct search and rescue after the storm makes landfall.

Edwards said he has an ongoing dialogue with FEMA and has requested a federal declaration of emergency before the storm is expected to make landfall.

Last Update: 2:30 p.m., July 11, 2019

The disturbance off the Gulf Coast has grown into a tropical storm, which the National Hurricane Center has named Tropical Storm Barry. Forecasters predict the storm will make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday along the Louisiana coast, possibly over New Orleans.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch are in effect for much of the Louisiana coast. Officials say residents could feel the impacts of the storm as early as Friday.

"Heavy rain is the number one threat," National Weather Service Meteorologist Benjamin Schott told reporters at a press conference Thursday. "Very similar to what we say yesterday," he said, referring to the torrential rainfall that overwhelmed the city's drainage capacity, flooding homes, cars, streets and businesses.

Tropical Storm Barry is slow-moving and brings the threat of an extended period of heavy rainfall across South Louisiana, as well as inland through the lower Mississippi Valley. Forecasters predict up 10-15 inches of rain for most of the New Orleans area, and up to 20 inches in some isolated areas. 

[Read more: No sandbags for the City of New Orleans ahead of possible major flooding]

New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board executive director Ghassan Korban says, just like Wednesday, the city's drainage system is at "optimum capacity," with 118 pumps working - all that are meant to be brought online during a weather event. But he says that will not prevent areas from flooding if the city experiences a rain event like that of Wednesday. 

"I have what I have," Korban said. "To overpromise that we're going to outperform what we've done yesterday (Wednesday), it's very difficult for me to do that because I have limited assets and limited equipment."

[Read more: What the head of New Orleans' Sewerage and Water Board says about preparations for Barry]

"We cannot pump our way out of the water levels, the waterfalls, that are expected to hit the city of New Orleans," New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. 

When it comes to river flooding, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative Brad Guariso said the current data and models do not show the storm causing the levees to overtop. "Obviously those conditions could change so residents should stay vigilant," he said.

While Cantrell says the latest models put the storm over New Orleans Saturday, the track of the storm can change very quickly. Cantrell says the city needs to be prepared for wherever the storm makes landfall.

"While it is uncertain what the effect will be, we know we will be affected, and we need to be prepared, and we are prepared to respond," Cantrell said. Her team urged residents to prepare to shelter in place, with 72 hours of water, food and medication for each person in the household, including pets.

Besides rain, other concerns are high winds, and the life-threatening storm surge predicted across South Louisiana.

No evacuations have been ordered in Orleans Parish. But officials have ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish. In Jefferson Parish, residents in the lower lying Lafitte, Crowne Point and Barataria, as well as the town of Jean Lafitte, are under a mandatory evacuation starting at 2 p.m. today. Grand Isle is under mandatory evacuation as of 12 p.m. today.

In Plaquemines, historically high river levels have prompted officials to order mandatory evacuations beginning today for the entire East Bank, and for the West Bank starting at Oakville, down to Venice. 

The New Orleans mayor's office says it's confirmed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is suspending its immigration sweeps planned for this weekend, due to the storm.

Copyright 2021 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio. To see more, visit WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio.

Jess Clark is WWNO's Education Desk reporter. Jess comes to the station after two years as Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting for (Chapel Hill). Her reporting has aired on national programs, including NPR's All Things Considered, Here & Now from WBUR, and NPR's Weekend Edition.
Travis Lux primarily contributes science and health stories to Louisiana's Lab. He studied anthropology and sociology at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and picked up his first microphone at the Transom Story Workshop in Woods Hole, MA. In his spare time he loves to cook -- especially soups and casseroles.
Travis Lux
Travis is WWNO's coastal reporter.
Wallis Watkins
Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.
Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.