Tropical Storm Barry became the second named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season Thursday and may make landfall as a hurricane along the northern Gulf Coast this weekend, bringing major flooding rainfall, storm-surge flooding and high winds to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
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.
Hurricane warnings are now in effect for the coast of Louisiana from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle. This means hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. These warnings are typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds (39-plus mph), conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
Hurricane watches are in effect in southern Louisiana from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Grand Isle and from Intracoastal City to Cameron. This means hurricane conditions are possible in the area within the next 48 hours.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued in southern Louisiana from the mouth of the Pearl River at the border with Mississippi to Grand Isle, from Intracoastal City to Cameron and for Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, including the New Orleans metropolitan area. This means tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within the next 36 hours.
Tropical storm watches cover the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast from east of the mouth of the Pearl River to the state border with Alabama. This means tropical storm conditions are possible in the area within the next 48 hours.
A storm-surge warning has been issued for a portion of the southeastern and south-central Louisiana coast from Shell Beach along the shore of Lake Borgne to the mouth of the Atchafalaya River. A warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coast within the next 36 hours.
Storm-surge watches are now in effect from Shell Beach, Louisiana, to the Mississippi/Alabama border, from the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and for Lake Pontchartrain, including the New Orleans metropolitan area. A watch means life-threatening inundation is possible within the area, generally within 48 hours.
Here’s Where It’s Headed and How Strong
Barry will be steered westward or northwestward through the northern Gulf of Mexico in the direction of Louisiana, then drawn inland this weekend 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.
For now, it looks like landfall could occur any time from late Friday night into Saturday afternoon. A landfall would occur earlier/later if the center tracks along the right/left side of the forecast cone below.
Barry may be able to gain enough strength to become a hurricane prior to landfall.
Residents along the northern Gulf Coast should monitor the forecast closely knowing that conditions could change, and make sure your preparedness kit is ready to go and heed all evacuation orders from local officials.
Regardless of whether Barry is a tropical storm or hurricane, a major threat of heavy rain and flash flooding is in play into early next week somewhere near and inland from the Gulf Coast.
How much rain falls depends on how fast Barry moves and its exact track, rather than its intensity.
Typically, these types of tropical cyclones produce their heaviest rain along and to the east of their tracks. This suggests heavy rain is possible in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.
At least locally heavy rain is likely to persist over parts of the South well after the center moves ashore and may persist into early next week.
For now, the NHC suggests 10 to 20 inches of rain could fall through early next week in southeastern Louisiana and southwestern 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.
Flash flood watches have been posted along portions of the northern Gulf Coast from the far western Florida Panhandle into Louisiana.
NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center has also 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 occurs in and near high-risk areas.
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