Tropical Storm Barry – Trying to Organize in the Gulf
Barry is becoming better organized today. There is still some northerly wind shear affecting its ability to strengthen, and weak steering currents still have it moving very slowly westward. A turn to the northwest and north is still expected Friday and Saturday as the high pressure to the north breaks down. The official track is below:
The official track is generally aligned with model guidance as shown below. As always, there are a few outliers, and, thus, we have to keep an eye on it…though the National Hurricane Center is fairly confident in the future track as indicated by the narrowing of the “cone of uncertainty” shown above.
Intensity forecasts call for modest strengthening as the environment becomes more conducive, and Barry could still reach Category 1 Hurricane strength before landfall. However, as you’ll see below, this is not the main threat from Barry. Key messages are included below from the National Hurricane Center…
Key Messages from the National Hurricane Center:
1. There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along the coast of southern and southeastern Louisiana where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect. The highest storm surge inundation is expected between the Mouth of the Atchafalaya River and Shell Beach. Residents in these areas should listen to any advice given by local officials.
2. The slow movement of Barry will result in a long duration heavy rainfall and flood threat along the central Gulf Coast and inland through the lower Mississippi Valley through the weekend into early next week. Flash flooding and river flooding will become increasingly likely, some of which may be significant, especially along and east of the track of the system.
3. Hurricane conditions are expected along a portion of the coast of Louisiana, where a Hurricane Warning has been issued. Residents in these areas should rush their preparations to completion, as tropical storm conditions are expected to arrive in the warning area by Friday morning.
Catastrophic flooding appears likely for parts of Louisiana. More than 20 inches of rainfall is expected in areas that are already fairly saturated from prior rains. In addition, the Mississippi river is running extremely high still from spring and summer flooding in the mid-west. Barry will not help. Mississippi river level and forecast is shown below along with rainfall forecast for the next 7 days. River forecast shows that the MS River will likely be at moderate flood stage by Saturday. Shifts west in track may lessen impacts to river levels while shifts east in track will worsen effects.
The Weather Prediction Center has issued a high risk of flash flooding for portions of Louisiana. This is not an advisory to take lightly. The WPC has issued this “High Risk” only 8 times since these advisories began. 4 were issued in Hurricane Florence, and 3 in Harvey. Those of us that experienced Harvey know…a high risk for excessive rainfall is not good. Further below, authorities in some parts of Louisiana have issued mandatory evacuations.
Authorities in Jefferson Parish, near New Orleans, issued a mandatory evacuation order early Thursday for residents in low-lying areas, citing worries people could be stranded by surging storm waters. Plaquemines Parish, which juts out into the Gulf, also issued a mandatory evacuation. More evacuation orders could come, and shelters were preparing for residents, state officials said Thursday. A number of parishes set up sandbag stations for residents to better protect their homes.
New Orleans city officials didn’t issue voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders Thursday, but implored residents to shelter in place.
Residents did get some good news: The governor and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said new rainfall forecasts lessened fears of a swollen Mississippi River overtopping its levees.
Forecasts called for between 10 to 15 inches of rain—with up to 20 inches in some parts of the region—through the weekend and warned of flash floods and life-threatening storm surges.
“Heavy rain is the No. 1 threat,” said Benjamin Schott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service New Orleans. “This could be torrential rainfall: heavy rainfall in quick, quick bursts.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it was confident in the abilities of the levee system. Flood protection authorities in the area are closing flood gates along the Mississippi River, and New Orleans’s Sewerage and Water Board is monitoring its pumping stations in anticipation of the storm.
The storm comes amid the longest flood fight on the Mississippi River in history, the governor said. Officials anticipate the Mississippi River, which had reached just over 16 feet Thursday, may rise to 19 feet Saturday, a downgrade from the 20 feet estimated earlier this week. Many of the levees protecting New Orleans stand at around 20 feet.
This is a very serious situation for many in Louisiana. Texans should be prepared to donate and help with recovery next week. Remember how they helped us after Harvey.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Neighbors!