After Intense Flooding, Louisiana Prepares for a Potential Hurricane. Here’s What You Need to Know
The streets of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter were flooded Wednesday, and forecasters say that a potential hurricane bearing down on the Louisiana coast may make the situation much worse.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Watch for almost the entire Gulf Coast of Louisiana, from from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the town of Cameron. As the storm nears, it could worsen ongoing flooding in New Orleans and the surrounding area.
The storm, which will be dubbed “Barry” should it develop into a tropical storm, is expected to make landfall on Saturday at western or central Louisiana, Dan Kottlowski, a lead hurricane forecaster for Accuweather, tells TIME.
The storm is still forming, so it’s still hard to say how strong it will be. However, Kottlowski warns that people are in for a lot of rain.
“It will probably be at least a Category 1 [hurricane],” Kottlowski says, adding that it could even reach Category 2. “There will be major flooding is some places.”
Six to nine inches of rain has already fallen in the New Orleans area. The storm is expected to bring 10 to 18 inches more, although in some areas, there might be as much as two feet.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s forecast as of 8 a.m. on Thursday, storm surge of 3 to 6 feet is expected from the mouth of the Pearl River just east of New Orleans to Intracoastal City, south of Lafayette.
Here’s what you need to know about the incoming storm.
What path is the storm expected to take?
This map from the National Hurricane Center shows the expected path of the potential tropical cyclone in the Gulf of Mexico that is expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Barry. It is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by 1 a.m. Saturday. The storm is expected to bring up to 20 inches of rain and up to 6 feet of storm surge to the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans. This map shows the latest forecast as of 4 a.m. Thursday, July 11, 2019.
National Hurricane Center
The storm is expected to strike central or western Louisiana on Saturday sometime between late morning and the evening, Kottlowski says. Although it’s still forming, it’s expected to intensify into a tropical storm tomorrow.
As the storm is still forming, a lot is still unknown about how strong it will become and which direction it will take. That means people across the region––from central Mississippi to Arkansas to eastern Texas––should be ready for heavy rains and possible flooding if they live in a flood-prone area, Kottlowski warns. A flash flooding warning has been issued in New Orleans.
Kottlowski says that one of the biggest concerns is that the storm will continue to move west––which will mean that it will continue to gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico. That would mean a more intense storm, with even more rain.
What’s happening now?
New Orleans is already drenched from another storm. Residents and local news outlets have begun to share videos and photos of waterlogged streets, hotel lobbies and cars.
How are people in the storm’s path getting ready?
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency order on Wednesday and asked all Louisiana residents that, “No one should take this storm lightly.”
“As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact. Now is the time to check your emergency supplies and get a game plan for your family and pets. I urge the public to continue monitoring local media for weather developments and follow the directions of local officials,” Edwards said in a statement. The order is scheduled to be in place until Aug. 8, unless it is ended sooner.
State agencies announced that they’re mobilizing to prepare for the storm.
The Costal Protection and Restoration Authority said on Twitter that it is coordinating the closure of the state’s floodgates. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development also made various preparations for the storm, clearing out debris from ditches and staging barricades near roadways.
Various schools, including Loyola University New Orleans and Tulane University, are closing during the storm.
Write to Tara Law at [email protected]