Barry Is Making Things Very Wet in Louisiana

Concrete bags in front of buildings

Enlarge Image Businesses are putting concrete bags in front of their buildings to prepare for the storm. AP

Tropical Storm Barry continues its slow path toward the coast of South Louisiana late Friday afternoon, and it is expected to make landfall either late Friday night or early Saturday.

Though expected to be a weak hurricane, just barely over the 74 miles per hour (119 kph) wind speed threshold, it threatened disastrous flooding across a swath of the Gulf Coast. Barry was expected to continue weakening and become a tropical depression on Sunday.

Carrying "off the chart" amounts of moisture, sprawling Barry strengthened into a hurricane Saturday as it crawled slowly toward shore, knocking out power on the Gulf Coast and dumping heavy rains that could last for days in a test of flood-prevention efforts implemented after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 14 years ago.

"No one should take this storm lightly", Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday. "Power outages will be significant, in fact they're already significant in some areas of the state".

A coastal storm surge into the mouth of the MS is expected to push its crest to 19ft in New Orleans, the highest level since 1950 and dangerously close to the top of the city's levees.

Meteorologists expect the storm surge in NoLa to be between 3 to 5 feet - with up to 18 inches of rain forecast for the entire region.

In New Orleans, a group of neighbours cleaned out the storm drains on their street. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked to raise levees several feet, install new stronger floodwalls at critical places and strengthen nearly every section of the 130-mile (210-kilometer) perimeter that protects the greater New Orleans area.

Ahead of Barry, officials said 118 of the city's 120 drainage and constant-duty pumps are available.

Officials in the rural Louisiana coastal parish of Terrebonne ordered an evacuation of some areas due to water overtopping another levee.

Yuda and Cecilia Lilo, from Bolivia, were among the tourists who stayed.

"Everything is closed", Yuda said walking through the narrow roads of the French Quarter, noting the usually packed sidewalks were mostly empty.

Across the Mississippi River in historic Algiers Point, people were exercising, walking their dogs and snapping pictures of the river in a light rain and occasional wind gusts.

Louisiana's most populous city, New Orleans, looks set to avoid a direct hit from the hurricane - with the worst expected further west near the city of Lafayette instead.

Resident Jessica Awad, 36, said she wasn't anxious.

At a news conference on Friday, Edwards vowed the state was ready for impact and levees in New Orleans should withstand the floodwaters. There were predictions of 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain through Sunday across a swath of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge with some parts of the state possible getting 25 inches (63 centimeters). By next week, it will be bring about 1 inch of rain across southern IL and IN, which could benefit farmers there, said Ryan Truchelut, president of Weather Tiger LLC IN Tallahassee, Florida.

"What matters now is how fast it comes", agency spokesman Richard Rainey said.

Barry is the second named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season and the first to pose a threat to the United States this year.

All over town, people parked their cars on the city's medians - referred to by locals as "neutral grounds" - in hopes their vehicles would be safe on the slightly elevated strips. Sandbags were stacked outside hotels, shops and other businesses along Canal Street.

Based on its current track, the storm will likely cause about $800 million to $900 million in damage, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.

The sheriff's office said dozens of jail inmates held on minor charges were released to make room for almost 70 inmates transferred from a temporary lockup to the main detention facility, which was built to withstand a major hurricane.

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