Note: Live video players on the page show coverage from KLFY in Lafayette, Louisiana. (APP USERS: Click here to see the live streams)
WKRG’s Blake Brown gives an update on weather conditions in New Orleans and how there hasn’t been much rain there at all today, and how that could change depending on the setup of storms later
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Carrying “off the chart” amounts of moisture, Barry crawled ashore Saturday in Louisiana and quickly 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.
During a storm update through Facebook Live, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham pointed to a computer screen showing a huge, swirling mess of airborne water. “That is just an amazing amount of moisture,” he said. “That is off the chart.”
Downpours also lashed coastal Alabama and Mississippi. Parts of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama 200 miles (322 kilometers) from where Barry was headed, were flooded both by rain and surging water from the Gulf, said Mayor Jeff Collier, who was driving around in a Humvee to survey damage. He said the island still had power early Saturday afternoon and wind damage was minimal.
Water was flowing over a “back levee” in Point Celeste in Plaquemines Parish, officials said in an automated telephone recording distributed to residents. The levee was not on the Mississippi River, and there was no indication that the barrier was breached or broken or that major flooding was occurring, the recording said.
Officials said they were worried the water could close Highway 23, cutting off a key road and the rest of the parish to the south. Much of Plaquemines Parish had been under an evacuation order since Thursday.
Barry was moving so slowly that heavy rain was expected to continue all weekend, with predictions of up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) through Sunday across a swath of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Some parts of the state might get 25 inches (63 centimeters).
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell thanked residents for staying off the streets and urged them to remain vigilant because the worst of the wind and rain was yet to arrive.
“Although you may not have seen rainfall as we have been discussing, it is coming our way,” Cantrell said.
Forecasts showed the storm on a path toward Chicago that would swell the Mississippi River basin with water that must eventually flow south again.
Governors declared emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi, and authorities took closed floodgates and raised water barriers around New Orleans. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said it was the first time all floodgates were sealed in the New Orleans area since Katrina in 2005. Still, he said he did not expect the Mississippi River to spill over the levees despite water levels already running high from spring rains and melting snow upstream.
The barriers range in height from about 20 feet to 25 feet (6 meters to 7.5 meters).
There was one piece of good news: Late Friday night, forecasters said the Mississippi River was expected to crest in New Orleans at about 17.1 feet (5.2 meters) on Monday, not 19 feet (5.8 meters) as had been earlier predicted. The levees protecting the city range from about 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 meters) in height.
Authorities told at least 10,000 people in exposed, low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast to leave, but no evacuations were ordered in New Orleans, where officials urged residents to “shelter in place.”
“It’s moving really slowly,” New Orleans Councilwoman Helena Moreno said. “Because of that, there is concern it could be building as it just sits over the water. … We could feel a bigger impact.”
LIVE IN MISSISSIPPI
JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. – (7/13/19) Outer rain bands from Barry can be felt in South Mississippi.
Winds have picked up and there have been steady rains throughout the day.
In the eastern part of the county in Pascagoula, a high surf can be seen. Some of that water pooling near the beach. In the western part of the county in Ocean Springs, there is standing water causing some road closures. Some strong thunderstorms have been part of these bands.
Earlier this morning there was a tornado warning in the northeastern part of the county that expired without any damage. Those thunderstorms did knock out power to a few hundred people. More rain is expected over the next few hours and into tomorrow. Coastal Flooding is the main concern in this area.
LIVE COVERAGE FROM LAFAYETTE
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Heavy rains and gusty winds began knocking out power on the Gulf Coast as a strengthening Tropical Storm Barry churned a path to shore, threatening millions and testing flood-prevention efforts implemented after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 14 years ago.
Officials predicted Barry would make landfall as this year’s first hurricane Saturday morning near Morgan City, where a curfew has been set until 6 a.m. The edges of the storm were already lashing Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and Alabama with rain, leaving some roads underwater overnight. As dawn approached Saturday, more than 45,000 people in southern Louisiana had lost power.
Though expected to be a weak hurricane — just barely over the 74 mph (119 kph) wind speed threshold — it threatened disastrous flooding across a swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm was expected to inflict the most damage on Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, with wind and rain affecting more than 3 million people.
Late Friday night, residents received good news from forecasters: the Mississippi River is expected to crest in New Orleans at about 17.1 feet (5.2 meters) on Monday, not 19 feet (5.8 meters) as had been earlier predicted. The levees protecting the city range from about 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 meters) in height.
But forecasters warned most of the storm’s rain remained over the Gulf of Mexico and would likely move into Louisiana and Mississippi later Saturday. The southern part of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans had been pushed 3 feet (1 meter) above its typical level hours before the storm was to make landfall.
Governors declared emergencies in both states, and authorities took unprecedented precautions in closing floodgates and raising the barriers around New Orleans.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said it was the first time all floodgates were sealed in the New Orleans-area Hurricane Risk Reduction System since Katrina. Still, he said he didn’t expect the Mississippi River to spill over the levees despite water levels already running abnormally high from heavy spring rains and melting snow upstream.
“My concerns are just hoping it’s not going to be another Katrina,” said Donald Wells, a restaurant cook in New Orleans.
Authorities told at least 10,000 people in exposed, low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast to leave, but no evacuations were ordered in New Orleans , where officials urged residents to “shelter in place.”
Before they did, people packed stores to stock up on bottled water, food and other essentials.
Lifelong New Orleans resident Terrence Williams grabbed supplies at a Costco, saying he has a few simple rules for big storms.
“Stock up on water. Stock up food. Get ready for the storm — ride it out,” he said.
Scott Daley, 55, maneuvered two shopping carts filled with bottled water, gallons of milk and frozen meat at a Walmart in Lake Charles, in southwestern Louisiana.
“I’ve got five small children at the house. So we’re just hunkering down,” he said.
At least one couple scrapped their carefully planned Saturday wedding in favor of moving up the ceremony .
“We realized we had a marriage license, two rings … and we didn’t really want to wait any longer,” Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert said before marrying Lucy Sikes on Friday, before the storm hit.
Forecasters said slow-moving Barry could unload 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) 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 (63 centimeters).
“It’s powerful. It’s strengthening. And water is going to be a big issue,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned.
Workers also shored up and raised the levee system in places with beams, sheet metal and other barriers.
Rescue crews and about 3,000 National Guard troops were posted around Louisiana with boats, high-water vehicles and helicopters. President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency for Louisiana, authorizing federal agencies to coordinate relief efforts.
The impending storm also triggered a legal spat between neighboring parishes. East Baton Rouge Parish won a temporary restraining order against the AquaDams that Iberville Parish planned to deploy along Bayou Manchac. A federal judge ruled Friday night that the water-filled flood control barriers could cause substantial property damage and loss of life in East Baton Rouge.
Scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent storms and flooding, but without extensive study, they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.
Before the worst of the storm, Kaci Douglas and her 15-year-old son, Juan Causey, were among dozens filling sandbags at a fire station in Baton Rouge. She planned to use them to shore up the door of her townhouse.
“I told my son, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said.
In New Orleans, a group of neighbors cleaned out the storm drains on their street. Working together to lift off the heavy metal covers, they discovered that most of the drains were full of dirt, leaves and garbage.
All over town, people parked their cars on the city’s medians — referred to by locals as “neutral grounds” — in hopes their vehicles would be safe on the slightly elevated strips.
After Katrina was blamed for more than 1,800 deaths, by some estimates, the Army Corps of Engineers began a multibillion-dollar hurricane-protection system that isn’t complete. The work included repairs and improvements to some 350 miles (560 kilometers) of levees and more than 70 pumping stations.