Gulf Coast faces life-threatening rains as Barry moves inland

The Associated Press
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

July 14 (UPI) — Tropical Storm Barry was moving slowly northward Sunday over west-central Louisiana, creating live-threatening rains as the primary threat after reaching landfall as a hurricane the day before.

More than 129,00 customers out of 2.3 million in the Louisiana were without electricity as of 11:30 a.m. Sunday, according to PowerOutage.US.

With maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, Barry was moving north at 9 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 10 a.m. CDT advisory. The eye was about 50 miles miles southeast of Shreveport, La.

The center of Barry will move across the western and northern portions of Louisiana on Sunday and over Arkansas on Sunday night and Monday, the NHC said.

A storm surge warning from Intracoastal City, where Barry first hit land as a hurricane Saturday, to the mouth of the Atchafalaya River has been discontinued.

“Although Barry is inland, life-threatening storm surge inundation is still occurring along the coast of south-centralLouisiana, NHC forecaster John Cangialosi said in a discussion posting.

Barry is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches over south-central Louisiana and isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches. Across the remainder of the Lower Mississippi Valley, rain accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are expected, including isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches.

“This rainfall is expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding,” the NHC said.

In addition, a few tornadoes are possible Sunday across portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, western Alabama and eastern Arkansas.

“This storm has our attention,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement posted on Facebook. “While most of the rain right now is in the Gulf, we know that it will be coming ashore and impacting a large portion of the state. We are asking that everyone stay vigilant and be safe.”

The governor also said he had spoken with President Donald Trump.

“He asked me to tell the people of Louisiana hello and said he is pulling for us,” Edwards said. ” I thanked President Trump for his support and for approving our request for assistance.”

On Sunday morning, Trump posted on Twitter: “A big risk of major flooding in large parts of Louisiana and all across the Gulf Coast. Please be very careful!”

Nearly 3,000 National Guards troops had been deployed throughout Louisiana for potential storm response, CNN reported. Before the storm reached land, state, local and federal officials spent days preparing for the storm and possible impacts.

Following a brief stint as a Category 1 hurricane, Barry weakened once again to a tropical storm on Saturday after making landfall along the central Louisiana coast.

As Barry moved inland, multiple reports emerged of levees overtopping in Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes, with mandatory evacuations being ordered by Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove for all areas along Louisiana Highway 315.

AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer captured footage of water overtopping a levee in St Mary Parish. Mandatory evacuations were being put into effect for areas south of Highway 317 with sheriff’s deputies going door to door to notify residents.

Live update on levee overtopped in St Marys Parish, LA with deep flood waters moving up Hwy 217. Police have gone door-to-door asking residents to evacuate. A few people are staying behind @breakingweather @accuweather pic.twitter.com/8zY7CBkRBX

– Reed Timmer (@ReedTimmerAccu) July 13, 2019

Live update on levee overtopped in St Marys Parish, LA with deep flood waters moving up Hwy 217. Police have gone door-to-door asking residents to evacuate. A few people are staying behind @breakingweather @accuweather pic.twitter.com/8zY7CBkRBX— Reed Timmer (@ReedTimmerAccu) July 13, 2019

Around 10 a.m. CDT Saturday, Barry became the first hurricane of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season and the fourth hurricane to ever make landfall on the Louisiana coast in the month of July. The storm’s initial landfall occurred when the center of circulation moved across Marsh Island, followed by its final landfall near Intracoastal City, located about 160 miles west of New Orleans.

Since record-keeping began in 1851, only Hurricanes Bob in 1979, Danny in 1997 and Cindy in 2005, have made landfall on the Louisiana coast in July, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.

Despite weakening, Barry will continue to slowly spread a widespread swath of flooding and torrential rain from Louisiana and western Mississippi to eastern Arkansas, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

LA 1 was closed between St. Charles Bypass Road and Lefort Bypass Road in Thibodaux, Louisiana, due to downed electrical poles and wires after Barry blew through. After a brief stint as a Category 1 hurricane, the storm downsized to a tropical storm.

Edwards said the state and levees in New Orleans were ready for impact and should withstand the floodwaters.

“There have been NO levee failures in Plaquemines Parish. There are isolated issues of flooding that state and local officials anticipated and are actively addressing,” Gov. Edwards said in a post on Twitter Saturday.

The United States Coast Guard had to conduct several water rescues in Terrebonne Parish.

People should not focus on Barry’s wind speed, but instead be wary of the rain it will unleash across the region, AccuWeather forecasters cautioned.

“Our greatest concern is for torrential rain that would result in life-threatening flooding,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

Just east of where Barry made landfall, a tide gauge at Amerada Pass measured a storm surge of nearly 7 feet on Saturday afternoon, with tide levels reaching 8.23 feet, which exceeded levels measured during Hurricane Ike, 7.81 feet, from Sept. 12, 2008.

Storm surge began to inundate the coast of Louisiana as early as Friday morning as Barry gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Timmer reported from just outside of Chauvin, Louisiana, about an hour south of New Orleans.

Louisiana declared a state of emergency in advance of Barry’s arrival as residents and crews work to brace the city for impact. Residents were told to shelter in place by 8 p.m. CDT Friday.

Voluntary evacuations were issued across New Orleans for areas that are not protected by the levees.

Every flood gate has been closed along Lake Pontchartrain due to the anticipated flooding. The city of New Orleans did not offer any sandbags ahead of the storm, but businesses and residents stepped up to provide sandbags for people in town.

At 8 p.m. Sunday, the Flood Protection Authority said field crews will reopening key floodgates in areas of the St. Bernard Parish and the Orleans Parish to assist with rail, emergency routes and river commerce.

Most airlines are resuming normal operations at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport “now that the threat of Tropical Storm Barry is over,” according to a Twitter post. Airlines began cancelling flights Friday.

Not only were flights canceled, but so has this weekend’s Rolling Stones concert. Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones were set to perform in the Superdome on Sunday, but the concert has been moved to Monday due to Barry. The date of the concert could change again due to the lingering impacts from Barry.

Impacts from Barry were felt along the Florida Panhandle as well. On Friday, a law enforcement officer was treated for facial cuts after a powerful wave churned up by Barry broke the windshield of a boat near Destin, Florida, about 50 miles east of Pensacola, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Twitter page.

In Adams County, Miss., emergency management reports numerous downed trees across the county. “Rain soaked soils will make it easier for trees to come down in some of the gusty winds occurring across [southwest] Mississippi and [northeast] Louisiana. Please use caution if you are traveling in that area this morning!” the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, Mississippi, said on Twitter.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation reports that restrictions remain in effect on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement released statistics regarding the offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

As of data from 11:30 a.m. Saturday, 42.3 percent of all personnel have been evacuated from the managed production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The BSEE also estimates about 69.97 percent of the current oil production and 55.56 percent of the natural gas production was shut in. This procedure involves closing sub-surface safety valves below the surface of the ocean floor to prevent the release of oil or gas.

Accuweather.com contributed to this report

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