Storm Barry Threatens to Bring Dangerous Floods to Louisiana
Barry risks causing life-threatening floods after making landfall in Louisiana on Saturday, as the tropical storm lashes the state with as much as two feet of rain.
The storm came ashore near Intracoastal City — about 125 miles west of New Orleans — in Louisiana and has top winds of 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour, the
U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 5 p.m. in New York. Up to 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain could fall in some areas of the state, according to the NHC.
Barry, which was earlier a Category 1 hurricane, has cut energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, helped lift oil and natural gas prices, threatened crops from cotton to sugar and disrupted ship traffic on the Mississippi.
While it had threatened to raise the river’s levels in New Orleans to the most in almost seven decades, the National Weather Service now estimates a peak of about 17 feet, or almost three feet below prior forecasts. That would still be the highest since 1995.
“The worst is yet to come,” said Jim Rouiller, chief meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group near Philadelphia. “This is a very different kind of storm. It will continue to consolidate and be a severe flooding event for the state of Louisiana.”
Over 110,000 utility customers across Louisiana are being affected by power outages, according to data compiled from company maps.
Entergy Louisiana LLC, the main provider in the state with a total of 1.08 million customers, reported that about 71,600 were affected. Almost 43,500 out of Cleco Corp.’s nearly 285,000 customers were without power.
The storm is now about 20 miles southwest of the city of Lafayette. It’s expected to move generally northward through the Mississippi Valley through Sunday night.
Barry will weaken to a depression by Sunday and could degenerate completely by Monday or Tuesday, the hurricane center said. Moisture from the storm will still bring rain through the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys.
“Life-threatening, significant flash flooding and river flooding will become increasingly likely later today and tonight as Barry moves inland, especially across portions of south-central and southeast Louisiana and Mississippi,” Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist at the NHC in Miami, wrote in an earlier forecast analysis.
In the last three years, 83% of storm deaths have been a result of inland flooding, Ken Graham, the NHC’s director, said in an online presentation. The moisture heading toward the Gulf coast “is off the charts,” he said.
Companies have cut 70% of oil and about 56% of natural gas output in the Gulf. Tropical-storm-force winds are reaching as far as 175 miles out of Barry’s center, according to the NHC’s advisory.
New Orleans — where an emergency was declared Wednesday — hasn’t undergone a mandatory evacuation, Mayor LaToya Cantrell had urged residents to be prepared to shelter in place because the slow-moving storm could bring heavy rain for 48 hours.
While the threat to levees along the Mississippi isn’t as great, many secondary rivers throughout Louisiana are going to rise rapidly and flood, said Graham at the NHC. “We’re still dealing with Barry. It isn’t a hurricane anymore but it doesn’t matter, there is going to be a ton of rain out there,” he said.
The storm will likely cause about $800 million to $900 million in damage, Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia, said on Friday.
To everyone on the Gulf Coast: As you make preparations to protect your homes & loved ones from flooding & the coming storm, it is imperative that you heed the directions of @FEMA, State & Local Officials. We are working closely w/ them. Please be prepared, be careful, & be SAFE!
For a map showing assets in the storm’s path, click here
Some other effects of the storm:
Gulf of Mexico operators have shut-in 1.3 million barrels a day of oil production, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a
notice. About 1.54 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas production is also halted.
grain elevators, cotton
cane crops in Barry’s path, and almost half of the U.S.’s
exports of corn, soybeans and wheat get sent abroad from ports along the Mississippi River.
The storm has put 70% of newly minted
U.S. LNG capacity, including Cheniere Energy Inc.’s
Sabine Pass export terminal and Sempra Energy’s Cameron facility, at risk.
Port Fourchon, a seaport on the Gulf of Mexico serving more than 90% of the region’s deepwater oil production and acting as a land base for Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), is under a
mandatory evacuation order.
The storm may have the biggest impact on oil products, with the Louisiana coast home to
nearly 40% of U.S. Gulf Coast
refining capacity. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Norco and Convent refineries
reduced rates on some units.
More than 300,000 homes in Louisiana are at risk of flood damage, according to analytics firm CoreLogic.
— With assistance by Sheela Tobben, Michael Hirtzer, Kevin Varley, Shruti Singh, Will Wade, Mark Chediak, Stephen Stapczynski, Rachel Adams-Heard, and Andres Guerra Luz