FLASH: Barry crawled ashore Saturday in Louisiana and weakened to a tropical storm that promised to dump heavy rains that could last for days and pose a test of the flood-prevention systems built after Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago.
The storm made landfall near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, about 160 miles west of New Orleans, and its winds fell to 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
The Coast Guard rescued more than a dozen people from the remote Isle de Jean Charles, south of New Orleans, where water rose so high that some residents clung to rooftops. But in the city, locals and tourists wandered through mostly empty streets under a light rain or stayed indoors.
Video showed water overtopping a levee in Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans, where fingers of land extend deep into the Gulf of Mexico. Officials were still confident that the levees would hold firm.
More than 70,000 customers were without power Saturday morning, including nearly 67,000 in Louisiana and more than 3,000 in Mississippi, according to poweroutage.us.
Hours earlier, the storm had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), just above the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to be a hurricane. Barry was expected to continue weakening and become a tropical depression on Sunday.
The system threatened disastrous flooding across a swath of the Gulf Coast.
AccuWeather meteorologists expect a maximum storm surge of 3-6 ft mostly along and just to the right of the storm’s path.
Tropical Storm Barry strengthened Friday as it crawled west-northwest over the Gulf of Mexico with sustained winds of 65 mph. Government officials and residents braced for impact from the first tropical system that will make landfall in the US this year. Tropical storm-force winds began lashing parts of the Louisiana coast early Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.
Tropical storm conditions will spread inland over Louisiana and Mississippi Friday night.
Additional strengthening of Barry is forecast prior to landfall Saturday morning. When maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are detected, the storm will be classified as a hurricane.
AccuWeather meteorologist believe that Barry will make landfall as a hurricane along the central Louisiana coast.
Thursday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a hurricane warning for a large portion of the Louisiana coast from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle.
In New Orleans, neither mandatory nor voluntary evacuations have been ordered, as the city’s Mayor, Latoya Cantrell, advised residents to shelter in place. Cantrell said the city only enacts evacuations for hurricanes of Category 3 force or higher, according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale. “Therefore, sheltering in place is our strategy,” the mayor told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
If Barry maintains the track it’s currently on, the storm could make landfall on Marsh Island, Louisiana, in Vermilion Bay, about 100 miles west of New Orleans.
“The Key to whether Barry becomes a hurricane before landfall or not will depend on the amount of time it is able to spend over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.
Slow forward movement over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday and moisture wrapping around the northern side has allowed the storm to strengthen. Since the storm will say over water through Friday night, strengthening to a Category 1 hurricane is forecast.
However, the main threat from Barry will not be whether or not it is a hurricane at landfall, but rather how much rain is unleashed. Rainfall of 2-4 inches per hour can occur with Barry as it begins to move onshore. Rainfall totals will average 10-18 ins with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches possible in some places.
Barry’s flooding rainfall to have much more impact than a typical Category 1 hurricane or tropical storm
In terms of impact, AccuWeather has designated Barry a level 2 storm on its RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes. The scale ranges from “Less than 1” to a 5, with 5 having the most severe impact.
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“Heavy, flooding rainfall is expected over a large area, especially over much of eastern Louisiana into parts of western and southern Mississippi and southeastern Arkansas.”
The rainfall amounts assume a steady track. However, should the storm stall over the Deep South, rainfall amounts could be higher.
Thursday night, President Trump Thursday night told Americans FEMA is working closely with state and local officials to prepare for the aftermath and urged residents to “heed the directions of FEMA, State [and] Local Officials.” He added, “Please be prepared, be careful, [and] be SAFE!” as the storm continued gathering strength.