New Orleans-area governments urged caution Wednesday as residents dried off after a surprise deluge — and braced for the disturbance that is expected to become Hurricane Barry this weekend.
But parish officials largely passed on the chance to call for evacuations ahead of the tropical system’s arrival to the Louisiana coast, saying it was too soon to tell how large a problem the one-two punch of Barry and surging Mississippi River levels would pose for the region.
The exception was Plaquemines Parish, where President Kirk Lepine said a mandatory evacuation for residents of the east bank of the parish south of Oakville to Venice will go into effect Thursday morning.
That came after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that Plaquemines would be especially hard-hit by the storm, which is expected to overtop the parish’s levees and push water into lower-lying areas.
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“Plaquemines Parish government has taken all precautions in preparing for Tropical Storm Barry,” Lepine said. “Additional rainfall, high winds, and storm surge are expected.”
Plaquemines will offer pickup locations for residents who need help getting out. Those who head there will be taken to a shelter in north Louisiana, a parish spokeswoman added.
The warnings came after torrents of rain bands connected to the disturbance wreaked havoc on the New Orleans area Wednesday morning, with more than 7 inches of rain swamping some areas.
The brunt of the rainfall occurred during the morning commutes, causing traffic into the Central Business District and on other city streets to slow to a standstill.
A massive thunderstorm swept into the New Orleans area Wednesday, dropping several inches of rain that flooded streets, homes and businesses i…
The broad low pressure system threatening the entire area, now called Potential Tropical Cyclone 2, was just south of Pensacola on Wednesday evening, and had yet to form into a tropical depression or storm.
But warm Gulf of Mexico waters will bolster the storm over the next few days, likely helping it to reach at least depression status by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
By Saturday, it is expected to have made landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane. Though its path could change, forecasters have warned that the entire central Gulf Coast, including all of southern Louisiana, will see rainfall of between 6 to 12 inches near the coast and in inland areas through Saturday.
Isolated maximum rainfall totals could reach 18 inches.
That’s not even counting the effect its storm surge could have on the already unusually high Mississippi River, which was at 16 feet at the Carrollton gauge Wednesday.
Forecasters expect the potential Barry to add between 3 and 5 feet to the river in New Orleans and locations farther south. Meanwhile, Army Corps of Engineers data showed the storm could overtop much of the levee Saturday in the Lower 9th Ward, Algiers and St. Bernard Parish.
But officials in most parishes, including Orleans, were hesitant Wednesday to say whether more evacuation orders would be on the horizon, instead reminding residents to shelter in place and stay off flooded roads.
“We will make those calls (about an evacuation) once we feel they need to be made,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “As it relates to residents leaving, people can make up their own mind based on conditions now. That’s something that they can always do.”
City Hall in New Orleans shut down Wednesday, and officials said it would also close Thursday.
Plaquemines Parish President Kirk Lepine has issued an evacuation order for the east bank of the parish south of the Oakville to Venice, a spo…
Meanwhile, officials in St. Charles Parish said they were closely monitoring the weather and would set up sandbagging locations by 5 p.m. Wednesday at the East Bank Bridge Park, the West Bank Bridge Park, the Montz Recreation Park and Bayou Gauche Road.
Parish President Larry Cochran declared a state of emergency but said current forecasts showed little cause for worry.
“In discussions with officials in the National Weather Service River Forecast Center, there are no threats or concerns regarding the overtopping of the Mississippi River levee in St. Charles Parish based on the current forecast,” Cochran said in a statement.
In St. Tammany Parish, officials made sandbags available for pickup at parish government buildings in Slidell, Mandeville, Pearl River, Lacombe and Covington.
South Louisiana should brace for the effects of a storm expected to be named Hurricane Barry by the time it makes landfall with maximum winds …
The parish also asked residents to clear any debris from culverts and drainage pathways, and to monitor the weather forecast in the coming days.
Jefferson Parish offices will close Thursday and Friday, after isolated areas on both sides of the river saw flooding Wednesday, officials said.
“As always, we encourage residents to stay aware and ask that they do not drive through flooded streets,” Parish President Mike Yenni said.
Staff writers Faimon A. Roberts III, Della Hasselle and Andy Canulette contributed to this story.
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