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New Orleans just faced a flash flood emergency, and Barry could bring more severe flooding Saturday, testing levees

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6 days ago Ian Livingston

A flash flood emergency was declared for New Orleans Wednesday morning when six to 10 inches of rain engulfed the city, much of it falling over the course of an hour or two.

The deluge may have just been a preview of more serious flooding situation from Tropical Storm or Hurricane Barry, which could affect the area into the weekend.  

NWS Weather Prediction Center precipitation forecast through early Monday. (Weatherbell.com) NWS Weather Prediction Center precipitation forecast through early Monday. (Weatherbell.com)

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On Saturday, the Mississippi River is projected to see one of its highest crests on record in New Orleans, or the highest in seven decades. The Weather Service project the river to crest at 20 feet, which is at the same height levees protect the city.

The storm surge, or rise in ocean water above normally dry land when Barry comes ashore, could push ocean water up the mouth of the Mississippi River, and a storm surge watch has been placed in effect from this area west to the coast of central Louisiana.

In this photo made available by Conway, a street in New Orleans is flooded by heavy rain, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. © Conway via AP In this photo made available by Conway, a street in New Orleans is flooded by heavy rain, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

The flooding along the Mississippi could be compounded by heavy rainfall associated with Barry, which hit suddenly Wednesday morning before the storm had even formed. As the torrent raged, city officials advised commuters to stay off the roads because of numerous high water incidents. Many businesses and parts of the city government closed.

Flooding caused street closures and water rescues in dozens of spots. The heavy rain that created the flooding in New Orleans later tracked to the southwest, prompting an additional flash flood emergency for Jefferson Parish.

Rainfall rates as high as six inches per hour were noted near the iconic French Quarter. Many locations in and around downtown New Orleans picked up totals of over half a foot.

Before the flash flood emergency was issued for the city, a tornado warning was in effect and waterspouts were photographed over Lake Pontchartrain.

While the rains have eased for now in New Orleans, forecasts project Barry to strike the coast of Louisiana or northeast Texas this weekend. Depending on where it makes landfall, Wednesday morning’s torrent could be just the beginning of flooding problems in and around New Orleans.

In this photo made available by Kshithij Shrinath, flood waters surround a car as heavy rain falls, Wednesday, July 10, 2019. © Kshithij Shrinath via AP In this photo made available by Kshithij Shrinath, flood waters surround a car as heavy rain falls, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

Excessive amounts of rain could fall, or just a moderate amount. If Barry tracks well west of New Orleans, close to the border of Louisiana and Texas, the flood risk would decrease. But a track closer to the city could pose a severe flood threat, both from rain and storm surge.

The outlook from the National Weather Service calls for about eight inches of rain in New Orleans over coming days. Forecasts project over a foot of rain could fall in central and western Louisiana, but some shifts in these projections are possible.

The region is likely to deal with the storm and its associated effects through at least early next week, when it should get kicked away. Flood concerns, both from rainfall and storm surge, will remain high through then.

Below, find some more images of Wednesday morning’s flooding.

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