New Orleans braced for battering from Storm Barry
New Orleans was braced for severe flooding as a growing tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico headed for landfall late last night or early today as the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019.
US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana hours after the region's oil production was cut by half as energy companies evacuated offshore drilling facilities and a coastal refinery.
Tropical Storm Barry was packing maximum sustained winds of 85kmh early yesterday. Authorities were keeping a watchful eye on the levee system built to contain flooding along the lower Mississippi, which winds through the heart of New Orleans and has been running above flood stage for the past six months.
Barry was forecast to bring a coastal storm surge into the mouth of the river which could push its crest close to six metres today, 30cm lower than initially predicted but still the highest level since 1950 and dangerously close to the top of the city's levees.
Meteorologists predicted 25cm to 50cm of rain along much of the Gulf Coast across yesterday and today.
The brunt of the storm was expected to skirt the edge of New Orleans instead of making a direct hit. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city had not ordered voluntary or mandatory evacuations, but Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned: "The more information we get, the more concerned we are that this is going to be an extreme rain event." (Reuters)