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What To Know Ahead Of Tropical Storm Barry: Friday, July 12

Tropical Storm Barry shown by satellite on Friday.
Tropical Storm Barry shown by satellite on Friday.

Last update 5:15 p.m., July 12, 2019

Governor John Bel Edwards is urging residents to be ready to ride out Tropical Storm Barry by Friday evening, ahead of the storm’s anticipated landfall early Saturday morning.

[Read more: Why Cantrell says New Orleans isn't getting sandbags ahead of Barry]

The system still has the potential to develop into a Category 1 hurricane before it reaches Louisiana’s shore near Morgan City.  But wind speed has never been the major concern with this storm.

“It’s always been about the rain, and that remains a very significant threat," Edwards said at a press conference Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge.

The National Hurricane Center estimates portions of southeast Louisiana could get 10 to 20 inches of rain over a 24 hour period. Officials anticipate rainfall levels won’t reach those experienced in the 2016 floods, but believe flooding will occur in East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension parishes, as well throughout the New Orleans area and southeast Louisiana.

The latest rain estimates are lower than yesterday's for New Orleans: 6-10 inches for most of New Orleans, but up to 15 inches in some areas. The heaviest rainfall is predicted around Morgan City, where forecasters estimate 15-20 inches, and in some areas up to 25 inches.

“This is going to be a big storm across much of Louisiana. Based on the current forecasts,” Edwards said “we don’t expect this to be primarily a New Orleans event. This will be an event that primarily affects Louisiana west of New Orleans.”

Accompanying the heavy rain could be widespread power outages. Edwards cautioned it could take some time before crews are able to restore power.

Three thousand Louisiana National Guard troops have been mobilized across south Louisiana, focusing efforts between Baton Rouge and New Orleans should search and rescue missions be necessary.

Meanwhile in New Orleans a voluntary evacuation is in effect for areas outside the levee: Venetian Isles, Lake Catherine and Irish Bayou. Officials will close Highway 90 at 6 p.m.

Last update 1:15 p.m., July 12, 2019

As Tropical Storm Barry maintains its track towards the Louisiana coast, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged the city's residents and visitors to prepare to shelter in place starting at 8 p.m. tonight.

"Bottom line is stay off the street," Cantrell said at a press conference Friday.

Cantrell said the city is not instituting an official curfew because it strains New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) resources.

Officials are most concerned about rain and flash flooding.

"We're expecting this to be a heavy rain event," Homeland Security's New Orleans Director of Emergency Preparedness Collin Arnold said. "There's going to be intense rain bands over the next day-and-a-half at least." 

Cantrell and Arnold said they haven't called for evacuations because there wasn't enough time to evacuate between the formation of the storm and the predicted landfall. Cantrell says it takes 60 hours to evacuate a city this size.

"We were behind hour 60 when we got wind of this track," Cantrell said, noting climate change has made it more difficult to prepare for storms. "The storms are coming faster, they're more intense and more severe," Cantrell said. 

Cantrell said the city has staged busses for moving people out, if necessary.

Many residents have been concerned the city has not distributed sandbags, as it has in storms past. Cantrell said the city decided not to distribute sandbags for Tropical Storm Barry.

"What we have seen is that the level of sand that ends up in our drains, it works against us. It works against the system that's in place to drain the City of New Orleans. In an urban environment this is a best practice," she said. 

She said residents are welcome to find sandbags on their own if they wish, but urged responsible disposal of the sandbags after the storm passes.

New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board director Ghassan Korban said the system is ready for the storm. He noted that one of the 118 pumps was down, but that he is not concerned it will have major impacts.

The National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard and the New Orleans Fire Department said they have personnel, boats and high water vehicles ready to go for search and rescue efforts. The National Guard is moving in 3,000 personnel, along with thousands of gallons of bottled water and Meals Ready To Eat (MREs).

Last update: 10:00 a.m., July 12, 2019

Tropical Storm Barry is bearing down on the Louisiana coast. Meteorologists say tropical storm-force winds have already arrived along the coast of southeastern Louisiana. The New Orleans area can expect those winds to arrive around 2 p.m. this afternoon. The center of the storm is predicted to make landfall several miles west of Morgan City Saturday morning. 

Rainfall is still the main concern for New Orleans and most of Louisiana. Barry is a slow-moving storm, creeping along at just 5 mph.

"It's a problem when you move this slow," National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham said. "That makes for more rainfall, that makes for more hazards."

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

The latest rain estimates are lower than yesterday's for New Orleans: 6-10 inches for most of New Orleans, but up to 15 inches in some areas. The heaviest rainfall is predicted around Morgan City, where forecasters estimate 15-20 inches, and in some areas up to 25 inches.

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

Forecasters say much of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, southeast and south central Louisiana will be at high risk of flash flooding due to the storm. Most of the rest of Louisiana will be at moderate risk of flash flooding. Forecasters warn residents not to underestimate the danger of flooding, as most hurricane-related deaths are due to drowning.

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.
As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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