Friday, 18 October, 2019

Storm Barry upgraded to hurricane, residents asked to shelter in place

Tropical storm Barry races toward Louisiana, curbing oil output Thousands lose power as Tropical Storm Barry nears Louisiana
Patty Aguilar | 14 July, 2019, 16:55

The climate crisis is making tropical storms worse, experts warned as Louisiana faced flooding threats from a powerful storm that made landfall Saturday at midday. But Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the expected downpours could still be too much for the pumps created to free streets of excess water. But in the city, locals and tourists wandered through mostly empty streets under a light rain or stayed indoors. Officials were still confident that New Orleans' levees would hold firm.

Almost 67,000 customers in the state were without power Saturday morning.

At 10:00 am (1500 GMT), the storm was packing sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour - just above the minimum to qualify as a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest storm advisory.

Barry was expected to continue weakening and become a tropical depression Sunday, moving over Arkansas on Sunday night and Monday.

National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham said that Barry had gathered "a big slough of moisture" and was expected to dump rain on the area throughout the weekend.

"That is just an unbelievable amount of moisture", he said. "That is off the chart".

Downpours also lashed coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

Parts of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama 322 kilometres from where Barry was headed, were flooded both by rain and surging water from the Gulf, said Mayor Jeff Collier, who was driving around in a Humvee to survey damage. He said the island still had power early Saturday afternoon and wind damage was minimal.

Upon landfall, it was significantly weaker than expected and reduced to a tropical storm, but still resulted in flooding throughout the coast along the Gulf of Mexico.

"I do want to clear up a little bit of misinformation going around: The overtopping that has occurred in Plaquemines Parish is not the MS levee", Edwards said Saturday in a CNN report.

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Officials said they were anxious the water could close Highway 23, cutting off a key road and the rest of the parish to the south.

Multiple reports emerged Saturday of levees overtopping in Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes, leading to mandatory evacuations being ordered by Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove for all areas along Louisiana Highway 315.

Weakened but still potent, Barry inundated the Gulf Coast but appeared unlikely to deluge New Orleans as it continued its slow advance, though it brought fresh fears of flash flooding to Mississippi's capital city Sunday morning.

"Although you may not have seen rainfall as we have been discussing, it is coming our way", Cantrell said.

So three issues are adding together: The extremely high Mississippi River, the storm surge slowing the river flow pushing the water higher in the southern end of the river and the extreme rainfall.

Governors declared emergencies in Louisiana and MS, and authorities took unprecedented precautions in closing floodgates and raising the barriers around New Orleans.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said it was the first time all floodgates were sealed in the New Orleans-area Hurricane Risk Reduction System since Katrina.

Authorities were keeping a particularly watchful eye on the levee system built to contain the lower Mississippi River, which winds through the heart of New Orleans and was already well above flood stage from months of heavy upstream rainfall over the Midwest. The levees protecting the city range from about 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 meters) in height.

Although the outlook for New Orleans had improved significantly, weather service forecaster Robert Ricks said it was too early to declare that the city was in the clear.

"It's moving really slowly", New Orleans Councilwoman Helena Moreno said. They've also emphasized the need to do more things such as ripping up concrete, and building water retention ponds and underground cisterns.

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