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article imageNew Orleans prepares for extreme rainfall and flooding event

By Karen Graham     Jul 12, 2019 in Environment
New Orleans - Tropical Storm Barry strengthened Friday as it crawled west-northwest over the Gulf of Mexico with sustained winds of 65 mph. The NHC's 1:00 p..m. update anticipates the storm strengthening to at least a Category 1 hurricane.
As of 1:00 p.m., Barry was located about 105 miles (170 kilometers)west-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and close to 100 miles (160 kilometers) south-southeast of Morgan City, Louisiana, moving to the west-northwest at 5.0 mph (7.0 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph). The minimum central pressure has dropped to 993 MB...29.32 inches.
When Barry's maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, the storm will become a Category 1 Hurricane. AccuWeather meteorologists believe Barry will make landfall along the central Louisiana coast. On Thursday afternoon, the NHC issued a hurricane warning for a large portion of the Louisiana coast from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle.
Tropical storm warnings have been extended to the mouth of the Pearl River to Grand Isle, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas including metropolitan New Orleans, and Intracoastal City to Cameron.
Rainfall and storm surge warnings
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by
rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water could reach the following heights of anywhere from 3 to 6 feet above ground in some areas - especially if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.
However, as the NHC and other weather-reporting sources have been saying, it is the expected extreme rainfall amounts that are very concerning. Barry is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 20 inches over south-central and southeast Louisiana along with southwest Mississippi, with isolated maximum amounts of over two feet.
These extreme rainfall amounts are expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding over portions of the central Gulf Coast into the Lower Mississippi Valley. In New Orleans, neither mandatory nor voluntary evacuations have been ordered, as the city's mayor, Latoya Cantrell advised residents to shelter in place, reports
Cantrell said the city only enacts evacuations for hurricanes of Category 3 force or higher, according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale. "Therefore, sheltering in place is our strategy," the mayor told reporters at a news conference on Thursday. But forecasters warn that the rainfall amounts are based on the steady track of the storm. Should Barry stall, staying in one place, it could be disastrous.
Floodwaters will be a toxic and dangerous mix
This year, we are experiencing an historic slow-moving flood of polluted Mississippi River water loaded with chemicals, pesticides and human waste from 31 states and two Canadian provinces - draining straight into the marshes and bayous of the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Huffington Post.
The Bonnet Carre, a huge spillway that protects New Orleans, has already opened an unprecedented two times this year to divert surging Mississippi River water and is currently pouring more than 100,000 cubic feet per second into Lake Pontchartrain.
The Army Corps of Engineers operates the spillway and says it has no choice but to keep it open to protect property upstream. But with the river level being so high already, there is a real danger that with a storm surge pushing against the water flowing from the mouth of the Mississippi River, it will cause a reversal of the flow, causing the river to breach the 20-foot high levees.
Should this event happen, the population will have to contend with an environmental disaster of unknown magnitude. Besides the polluted freshwater of the river, there will also be toxic algae from the Gulf waters, as well as pathogenic bacteria. So let's all hope the storm moves quickly.
More about tropi9cal storm barry, hurricana, Environmental disaster, Mississippi river, 1 pm update
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