- Hurricane Barry will make landfall today along the northern Gulf Coast, possibly as a hurricane.
- A major threat of rainfall flooding is in play over the northern Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley.
- New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are among the cities in a high risk for flooding rainfall.
- Hurricane, tropical storm and storm-surge warnings have been issued for the northern Gulf Coast.
- Storm-surge flooding will also add to the water worries, particularly along and east of Barry’s track.
- Power outages are likely in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Barry has strengthened into a hurricane and will make landfall soon, along the northern Gulf Coast, spreading torrential rain up the lower Mississippi Valley, leading to major river flooding and flash flooding in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, along with storm-surge flooding and strong winds.
The center of Barry is moving onto the Louisiana coast with forward speed only around 6 mph. Hurricane Barry became the first hurricane of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season on Saturday morning as it approached the Gulf Coast.
Although Barry is a hurricane, its water (rain, surge) impacts are bigger concerns than wind. Let’s begin by listing current watches and warnings in effect.
Watches and Warnings
Flash flood watches are in effect for the entire lower Mississippi Valley, including parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle. This includes New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson and Mobile.
A storm-surge warning has been issued for a portion of the southeastern and south-central Louisiana and Mississippi coast from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to Biloxi, Mississippi, and also for the north, west and east shores of Lake Pontchartrain. A warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland.
Storm-surge watches are in effect from Biloxi, Mississippi, to the Mississippi/Alabama border. A watch means life-threatening inundation is possible within the area.
(INTERACTIVE MAP: NHC Storm-Surge Watches/Warnings)
Hurricane warnings are in effect for a part of southern Louisiana, including Morgan City and Grand Isle. This means hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued in much of southern and central Louisiana, as well as a small part of southwest Mississippi, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria and Lake Charles. This means tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.
Hurricane watches are in effect in southern Louisiana from Intracoastal City to Cameron. This means hurricane conditions are possible in the area.
A Strange Storm
Barry is a rather odd, lopsided hurricane, due to a combination of northerly wind shear and drier air blowing over its center.
However, heavy rainbands have now moved ashore along parts of the Gulf Coast, from southeast Louisiana to southern Mississippi and Alabama.
Wind gusts over 50 mph have been clocked early Saturday in parts of southern Louisiana as Barry’s center inches closer. The strongest winds were generally east of the center of Barry.
The National Ocean Service station at Eugene Island, Louisiana, measured sustained winds of 71 mph and a wind gust of 85 mph early Saturday. Port Fourchon gusted to 62 mph, Houma gusted to 58 mph and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport measured a peak gust to 49 mph, so far.
A couple of trees came down in the Baton Rouge area early Saturday and winds have gusted as high as 47 mph as of midday Saturday.
A few roads were impassable Saturday morning near Bayou La Batre, Alabama, due to coastal flooding.
Offshore waves in the Gulf are on the order of 8 to 15 feet, mainly east and south of the center of Barry.
Water levels south of Morgan City, Louisiana, were running 5 to 7 feet above normal tide levels Saturday, as Barry’s center moved ashore. Amerada Pass recorded a water level about 6.4 feet above normal tide levels, while a 5 to 6 foot surge moved up the Atchafalaya River at Berwick, near Morgan City.
On the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, water levels were about 3 feet above normal at Lakeshore Park in New Orleans and about 3.5 feet above normal where the Bonnet Carre Floodway empties into the lake west of New Orleans near LaPlace.
Storm surge only produced a 1-foot rise on the Mississippi River at New Orleans. The river is expected to remain near a 17-foot stage, its highest level in more than eight years, but should remain 3 feet below the 20-foot height of river levees.
Barry will be drawn inland the next few days into the lower Mississippi Valley through a gap between a high-pressure system in the Rockies and an extension of the Bermuda high over the Bahamas and the Florida Peninsula.
Barry is bringing a major threat of heavy rain and flash flooding for the next few days in the lower Mississippi Valley, due to Barry’s slow movement.
Typically, these types of tropical cyclones produce their heaviest rain along and to the east of their tracks.
Heavy rain is expected in much of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as parts of Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, and possibly extending into southeast Missouri and western Kentucky.
This heavy rain will persist in some areas well after the center moves ashore and could last into Monday, or even Tuesday.
The NHC suggests 10 to 20 inches of rain could fall the next few days in southern Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, with isolated totals up to 25 inches. The remainder of the lower Mississippi Valley could pick up 4 to 8 inches of rain, with localized amounts up to 12 inches. Rainfall could also total 4 to 8 inches over western parts of the Tennessee Valley by early next week.
These amounts of rain are expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding over portions of the northern Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley. River flooding is likely to last for several days, if not over a week in some areas.
At least one river – the Comite River near Comite Joor Road, in the northeast Baton Rouge area – is now predicted to crest at record levels on Monday, according to a NOAA forecast issued Friday night. The forecast crest of 34.5 feet would top the 34.22 feet observed in the catastrophic flood of August 2016.
NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center has issued a high risk of excessive rainfall for portions of far southwestern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana, including the New Orleans metro area, for Saturday. About 40% of all U.S. flood deaths and 90% of all flood-related damage occur in and near high-risk areas.
Onshore flow will produce coastal flooding, particularly at high tide, along parts of the northern Gulf Coast.
In general, peak water rise from storm surge will occur along and to the east of Barry’s track near landfall, today.
Onshore winds should persist at least into Sunday, if not Monday, to the east of Barry’s center, even as Barry is inland, continuing coastal flooding in some spots.
The inundation forecast below from the NHC should be thought of as peak water levels above ground if storm surge occurs at high tide. The times of normal high tide are generally near or just after dawn along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. At Shell Beach, Louisiana, just east of New Orleans on the southern shore of Lake Borgne, high tides occur in late morning each day through Sunday.
(INTERACTIVE MAP: NHC Potential Storm Surge Flooding Inundation)
This surge flooding will only aggravate rainfall flooding, not allowing swollen bayous and rivers to drain to the Gulf.
These onshore winds will also produce dangerous, life-threatening rip currents along parts of the northern and eastern Gulf Coast. Gulf waters were closed at both Orange Beach, Alabama, and Panama City Beach, Florida, Thursday due to the rip-current danger.
Hurricane-force winds (74-plus mph) are occurring over a small area east of the center and should continue into Saturday afternoon. Tropical-storm-force winds will extend over a broader area through Saturday night.
These strong winds will likely result in widespread power outages from central and eastern Louisiana into southwestern Mississippi. Power outages are also possible elsewhere in Louisiana and Mississippi and as far inland as southeastern Arkansas and southwestern Tennessee.
A few tornadoes are possible through Saturday across parts of Louisiana, southern and central Mississippi and coastal Alabama as Barry moves inland.
Barry’s origins were from a cluster of thunderstorms in the Plains around the Fourth of July, spawning an area of spin a few thousand feet above the ground, which eventually moved into the Gulf of Mexico to spawn Barry.
One day before becoming Barry, torrential rain soaked southeastern Louisiana Wednesday morning, July 10.
The National Weather Service issued a rare flash flood emergency for much of the New Orleans metro area Wednesday morning, July 10. Parts of the city picked up over 10 inches of rain in just a few hours, triggering widespread street flooding.
(NEWS: New Orleans Flash Flooding)
Water reportedly entered a building in Harahan, just upriver from New Orleans in Jefferson Parish, according to a report received by the NWS.
If that wasn’t enough, a tornado was sighted over the western New Orleans metro Wednesday morning, July 10.
U.S. Air Force Reserve and NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft found sufficiently strong winds and just enough organization of thunderstorms around low pressure for the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to deem this system a tropical storm Thursday morning.