Heavy rains caused substantial flooding Wednesday in New Orleans ahead of a weather system predicted to deliver the season’s first hurricane.
“No one should take this storm lightly,” Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a news conference Wednesday to declare a statewide emergency.
Officials warn a coastal storm surge could cause the Mississippi River to rise 20 feet above sea level, endangering the levee system that protects the city from catastrophic flooding like it experienced in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which killed hundreds and forced 130,000 to relocate.
Should the storm system evolve into a tropical storm, it will be named Barry, according to National Weather Service senior hurricane specialist Jack Beven, who also said the storm is predicted to make landfall west of the city Saturday.
“The forecast has it becoming a hurricane, but there’s a possibility that it might not also,” Beven told Reuters.
During Wednesday’s storms, which included a tornado warning, a waterspout formed over Lake Pontchartrain.
Offshore oil platforms have been evacuated as the storm approaches, forcing energy production to be scaled back.
New Orleans residents have been told to stock up on emergency supplies including drinking water and non-perishable food.
Officials warned residents in Plaquemines Parish south of the city that they may need to evacuate Thursday. Vermilion Parish officials have advised moving to higher ground if necessary.
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