NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The winds and rain of tropical storm Barry began hitting parts of Louisiana early Friday as New Orleans and coastal communities prepared to drink from what should be the first hurricane of the season.
Employees at the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office move free sandbags to residents of Chalmette, La., Thursday, July 11, 2019, in front of tropical storm Barry of the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo / Matthew Hinton)
A hurricane warning was in effect along the coast of Louisiana, forecasters predicting a hurricane as a hurricane before early Saturday.
Storm rains should be a severe test of improved New Orleans defenses after Katrina floods. According to forecasts, Barry will bring more than 0.5 meter of rain in parts of the state as he slowly moves inland.
"Louisiana can flood three ways: storm surge, high rivers and rain," said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. "We are going to have all three."
Edwards warned of a dangerous combination with the already high Mississippi River, which was swollen by heavy rains and snowmelt upstream this spring. He added that the authorities did not expect the river to overflow its dikes, but warned that a change in the direction or intensity of the storm could alter this situation .
National Hurricane Center director, Ken Graham, said Louisiana pockets could reach up to 25 inches (63 centimeters) of rain.
"So here's the delivery: a dangerous situation," he said at an online presentation Thursday. "This kind of rain in this system could cause flash floods, a build-up of water."
National Guard troops and rescue teams were stationed around the state with boats and vehicles on the high seas. Helicopters were also on standby and supplies including drinking water and blankets, were ready for distribution, said the Guard.
President Donald Trump on Thursday evening declared a federal emergency declaration for Louisiana authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief activities.
Barry could have winds of about 75 mph (120 km / h), barely above the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane, when he arrives on shore, making it a Category 1 storm announced the forecasters.
By early Friday, Barry was about 130 km south of the mouth of the Mississippi, with winds of about 50 mph (80 km / h).
The southeastern tip of Louisiana was hit first. Many people took into account evacuation orders targeting 10,000 people in the parish of Plaquemines, leaving communities virtually empty on Thursday afternoons.
Clarence Brocks, 65, and his family were among the last to leave the city of Phoenix. The native of Plaquemines parish was evacuated several times and had to be rebuilt after Katrina destroyed his house. But he said that he would not want to live anywhere else, despite the annual threat of hurricanes.
"I was born and grew up here – it's all I know," said the Air Force veteran. "I've been all over the world and guess where I want to be – right here."
Jesse Schaffer III de Meraux (MEE-roh), in the parish of Saint-Bernard, in the north, helped his relatives in the parish of Plaquemines to visit family members in safer areas. He added that about twenty members of his family lived with him and his wife, their house being safer.
"We are trying to evacuate and gather all the members of our family and go to the parish of St. Bernard," he said.
While lightning was blinking in the distance and some streets were already covered with water by heavy rains, customers of an Albertsons grocery store in Baton Rouge have stripped the bread rays Thursday night. Half of the shelves normally filled with bottled water were empty.
A Barry radar loop filled the television screen of a brewery near downtown. Nearby, the sign in front of a convenience store indicated: "Barry needs a beer and a nap."
Meanwhile, utility crews equipped with bucket trucks could be useful after the storm that has invaded the hotel car parks along Interstate 59 in southern Mississippi.
The National Hurricane Center has declared that a rain of up to 20 inches (50 cm) could fall in parts of eastern Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, and that the The entire region could reach up to 25 inches (10 inches). According to forecasters, the New Orleans area could reach 25 to 38 centimeters from here 10 to 15 inches (Sunday).
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Thursday that the pumping system that drains the streets of the city is working as expected, but that Barry could dump the water faster than the pumps can move it.
"We can not escape the water levels … that should hit the city of New Orleans," she warned.
However, the city did not plan to order evacuations because of Barry's proximity and the fact that the event would not become a major hurricane. Instead, officials advised people to keep at least three days of supplies and leave the nearby storm sewers open so that water can circulate quickly.
Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic floods in New Orleans in 2005 and has, according to some estimates, been behind more than 1,800 deaths in Louisiana and in other states.
As a result of this, the Corps of Army Engineers has put in place a multibillion hurricane protection system that is not complete. The work included the repair and improvement of approximately 560 kilometers of dikes and more than 70 pumping stations used to remove floodwaters.
Chevel Johnson and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans, Sarah Blake Morgan at Plaquemines Parish and Jay Reeves in Baton Rouge were involved in writing this report.
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