'Entire Louisiana coast' in path of predicated hurricane
Tropical Storm Barry has formed off the coast of Louisiana, in southeastern US, on Thursday and threatened to blow ashore as a hurricane with torrential rains that could test the flood-control improvements made in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago.
Forecasters said the first hurricane of the Atlantic season could hit the state's swampy southern tip Friday night or early Saturday, with potentially ruinous downpours that could go on for hours as the storm pushes inland.
Plaquemines Parish, at Louisiana's southeastern tip, ordered the mandatory evacuation of as many as 10,000 people, and communities began handing out sandbags.
Louisiana Govenor John Bel Edwards declared an emergency and said National Guard troops and high-water vehicles will be positioned all over the state.
"The entire coast of Louisiana is at play in this storm," he warned.
On Wednesday, with the gathering storm still out over the Gulf of Mexico, it dumped as much as 20 centimetres on metro New Orleans in just three hours. The deluge triggered flash flooding and raised fears about the even heavier rains on the way.
The National Hurricane Center said as much as 50 centimetres of rain could fall in parts of eastern Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, and the entire region could get as much as 25 centimetres. New Orleans could also receive the same, forecasters aid.
The storm's surge also could prevent water from emptying out of the already-swollen Mississippi River, possibly sending water over levees near New Orleans, forecasters said. The river has been running high for months.
The National Hurricane Center said Barry could have maximum sustained winds of about 120 km/h, just over the threshold for a hurricane, when it comes ashore, making it a Category 1 storm.
In New Orleans, where Katrina in 2005 caused catastrophic flooding that was blamed altogether for more than 1,500 deaths in Louisiana and other states, officials asked people to keep at least three days of supplies on hand and to keep their neighbourhood storm drains clear so water can move quickly.
After Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers began a multibillion-dollar hurricane-protection system that isn't yet complete. The work included repairs and improvements to some 560 kilometre of levees and more than 70 pump stations that are used to remove floodwaters.
A spokesman for the Corps in New Orleans said the agency is not expecting widespread overtopping of the levees, but there are concerns for areas south of the city, like Plaquemines Parish.
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