Newly formed Tropical Storm Barry has already dropped heavy rains and flooding on Southeastern Louisiana.

By Marisa Spyker
Updated: July 12, 2019
SETH HERALD/AFP/Getty Images

When Hurricane Katrina barreled through New Orleans in 2005, residents felt the full brunt of Mother Nature. But now, thanks to a perfect storm of conditions—including a budding hurricane in the Gulf—experts are predicting a weather situation of a whole new magnitude.

The unprecedented threat is the result of unusually high water levels in the Mississippi River following a historic spring flood season in the central U.S. Couple that with a brewing storm arriving early in the 2019 hurricane season, and experts are predicting enough rain that could push those water levels over the edge.

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“This is going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and widespread, heavy rainfall potentially impacting every part of the state,” Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement Wednesday after declaring a state of emergency. “No one should take this storm lightly.”

According to the National Weather Service, the severe weather system is expected to turn into Hurricane Barry by Saturday, around the time it’d be bearing down on the Louisiana coast. Experts are predicting heavy rainfall of 10 to 15 inches and a projected storm surge of three to six feet. As of 5 PM EST Friday, the tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, just nine miles shy of a category 1 hurricane. A hurricane warning is in effect for coastal Louisiana.

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While Barry pales in size and muscle compared to Katrina, the slow-moving storm could dump enough rain to seriously test the city’s levee system that tragically failed in the latter. Due to the prolonged spring floods, river levels are already at a high 16 feet. With storm surge, those could elevate to anywhere from 19 to 22 feet. According to a spokesman for the Army Corp of Engineers in New Orleans, the city is protected by levees that range anywhere from 20 to 25 feet, giving the partially below-sea-level city a probable chance of more flooding to come. (Though the Corp is working to reinforce low-lying areas.)

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While New Orleans is on high alert for storm surge, other cities along the Gulf Coast are also bracing for Barry’s impact. According to the National Weather Service, residents from Galveston, Texas, to Tampa, Florida, could see heavy tropical rainfall through the weekend.

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