US President Donald Trump on Sunday urged people in the Gulf Coast to stay vigilant as Tropical Storm Barry follows a slow but steady path north.
“A big risk of major flooding in large parts of Louisiana and all across the Gulf Coast,” said Trump. “Please be very careful.”
Barry has been downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall on Saturday as a Category-1 hurricane. By Sunday morning, the storm was still producing sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).
Late Saturday, the Army Corps of Engineers said they were confident that the levee system that protects parts of Louisiana could hold. But in some parts of the state, water had already started to spill over levees.
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Louisiana is home to the world’s largest pumping station in the world, which can pump 8.6 million gallons (32.5 million liters) per minute
‘Still a dangerous storm’
The US National Hurricane Center said that even though the storm is slowly weakening, it “is still very much a dangerous storm with impacts only increasing through Sunday.”
“Don’t let your guard down thinking the worst is behind us,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said during a press briefing.
Emergency services were notably on alert throughout the storm, in part to avoid a repeat of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Katrina is the deadliest and costliest hurricane to strike the US. At the time, critics said the government response to the Category-5 hurricane was late and failed to meet the needs of the humanitarian crisis.
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Ahead of the storm, residents in Louisiana and its largest city, New Orleans, hunkered down in preparation for rising waters brought by Barry. Memories of deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were likely present in their minds. The low-lying coastal area of the state is particularly prone to flooding and much of it has already been lost through erosion.
A delivery truck used the sidewalk to get around cars stalled on the flooded streets of New Orleans. Compounding concerns, on Saturday the National Weather Service warned of extreme weather capable of producing tornadoes that was approaching St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish, to the west of the Crescent City, as New Orleans is affectionately referred to.
Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, work has been underway on a multibillion-dollar hurricane-protection system. Residents are hoping that, though incomplete, it could prevent the worst damage. But some aren’t taking any chances.
Barry grew in the Gulf of Mexico over a few days. The main force of the storm brushed the western edge of New Orleans, narrowly missing a direct hit. But Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the expected downpours could still be too much for the pumps designed to free streets of excess water. Barry was briefly classified as a hurricane when sustained winds hit 119 kph (74 mph).
Here, the gate of the US Customs House in New Orleans is seen sandbagged in the hope of stemming the surge. The Mississippi River, which flows through the city, is forecast to rise to as high as 5.2 meters (17.1 feet) on Saturday — the highest level since 1950, and close to the top of the city’s levees.
This street in New Orleans’ Garden District suffered flooding days before the actual storm arrived. Some residents parked their cars on raised median strips hoping to protect them from flood damage. People were advised to store at least three days of supplies. Thirty thousand people had lost power in Southern Louisiana by early Saturday.
Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005, caused catastrophic flooding and was blamed for as many as 1,800 deaths in Louisiana and other states. Some areas, like this, still showed the damage half a year on from the disaster.
ls/ (AFP, AP)