July 10 (UPI) — Louisiana officials plan to close more than 90 floodgates in the state ahead of a storm off the Gulf Coast that is forecast to make landfall later this week.
Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority spokesman Antwan Harris told CNN that they closed 21 floodgates on Wednesday with plans to close at least 70 more throughout the next 24 hours.
He added the focus would be on floodgates along the Mississippi River.
Plaquemines Parish on the coast of New Orleans ordered mandatory evacuations in response to the approaching storm.
“Plaquemines Parish Government has taken all precautions in preparing for Tropical Storm Barry,” Parish President Kirk Lepine said, declaring a state of emergency in the parish. “Additional rainfall, high winds and storm surge are expected.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Wednesday warning that the low-pressure system currently in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to produce storm surge, hurricane-force winds and up to 15 inches of rain throughout the state.
“This going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and widespread, heavy rainfall potentially impacting every part of the state,” Edwards said. “No one should take this storm lightly. As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact.”
Louisiana already began experiencing heavy rain and flooding on Wednesday and flash flood warnings were issued for portions of the state.
“I urge the public to continue monitoring local media for weather developments and follow the directions of local officials,” Edwards said.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell also declared a state of emergency for the city.
“New Orleans may experience more widespread localized severe flooding and gale force winds that could result in the endangerment and threat of life, injury and possible property damage,” she said.
The storm has nearly a 100 percent chance of strengthening to become Tropical Storm Barry — the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season — and could become a Category 1 hurricane by the time it is forecast to make landfall in Louisiana on Saturday, Accuweather meteorologists said.
In preparation for the storm, officials in New Orleans began monitoring for any potential storm surge impacts on the Mississippi River.
Heavy rainfall is also expected in Mississippi, western Tennessee, Arkansas and northeastern Texas.