Barry a triple threat of storm surge, high rivers and flooding as it gets closer to Louisiana coast

Louisiana has withstood devastating hurricanes before, but authorities are urging residents not to underestimate the danger and destruction Tropical Storm Barry threatens as it gets closer to the coast Friday.

“Look, there are three ways that Louisiana floods: storm surge, high rivers, and rain. We’re gonna have all three,” Gov John Bel Edwards said.

Barry is moving slowly through the Gulf of Mexico and is the first Tropical Storm to threaten the United States this year. While there is a chance it can reach hurricane levels, the real threat the storm poses is rain —which could quickly turn into unprecedented flooding.

It moved slowly through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, giving it plenty of time to release large amounts of rain.

The Mississippi River, which is usually at 6 to 8 feet around New Orleans this time of year, is at 16 feet after a year of record flooding. And 10-15 more inches of rain are on the way, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.

By early Friday, Barry was 95 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

Preparations and evacuations

President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Louisiana, where the storm is expected to make landfall.

Louisiana has activated 3,000 members of the National Guard in anticipation of the destruction Barry might bring to the region, the governor said.

And government officials are not the only ones responding to the disaster. Chef José Andrés’ nonprofit World Central Kitchen announced Thursday they are setting up kitchens in Lafayette and New Orleans in response to the storm.

Officials expect to issue a mandatory evacuation order Friday for everything south of the Leon Theriot Flood Gate. But many residents aren’t too eager to leave.

Pamela Hughes said she is riding out the storm in her mother’s trailer in Port Sulphur, which is under a mandatory evacuation order.

“I really don’t think it’s going to be too bad,” she told CNN.

Others, like Kristopher Williams, are staying behind to protect their pets and their belongings.

“Everything I own is in it,” he said of his truck. “I’m not an ignorant person. I know the dangers. I also know how to get out if just about any bind I encounter.”

A hurricane warning is in effect for Intracoastal City to Grand Isle and a hurricane watch is in effect for the Mouth of the Mississippi River to Grand Isle.

Overwhelmed pumps and pipes

New Orleans system of pumps, underground pipes and canals are overwhelmed by the downpour, but Gov. Edwards said Thursday that under current forecast models, the Mississippi River is not expected to overtop the river levee.

There is a significant chance it can reach winds of 74 mph and turn Tropical Storm Barry into a hurricane. More than 800,000 people are currently under a Hurricane Warning.

Flooding concerns are not just limited to Louisiana and have expanded around the Gulf.

Mississippi, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle are also at risk for extreme rain, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said Thursday.

The National Weather Service tweeted early Friday morning that Mobile, Alabama can expect heavy rain that may lead to flash flooding as well as a high risk of rip currents and surf up to 8 feet.

The Florida panhandle has seen double red flags go up in some areas, meaning that the dangerous conditions have closed beaches, the National Weather Service said.

In addition to potential heavy rains in the state, the Mississippi Delta Region is also at risk for tornadoes beginning Friday evening.