BARRY RAISES FLOODING RISK
Hurricane Barry weakened to a tropical storm as it rolled into the Louisiana coast, flooding highways.
Barry rolled into the Louisiana coast Saturday, flooding highways, forcing people to scramble to rooftops and dumping heavy rain that could test the levees and pumps that were bolstered after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.
After briefly becoming a Category 1 hurricane, the system weakened to a tropical storm as it made landfall near Intracoastal City, about 160 miles west of New Orleans, with its winds falling to 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
By late afternoon, New Orleans had been spared the worst effects, receiving only light showers and gusty winds. But officials warned that Barry could still cause disastrous flooding across a wide stretch of the Gulf Coast and drop up to 20 inches of rain through Sunday across a part of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“This is just the beginning,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “It’s going to be a long several days for our state.”
The Coast Guard rescued a dozen people from flooded areas of Terrebonne Parish, south of New Orleans, some of them from rooftops, a spokeswoman said. The people included a 77-year-old man who called for help because he had about 4 feet of water in his home.
None of the main levees on the Mississippi River failed or were breached, Edwards said. But a levee in Terrebonne Parish was overtopped by water, officials said. And video showed water getting over a second levee in Plaquemines Parish, where fingers of land extend deep into the Gulf of Mexico.
Nearly all businesses in Morgan City, about 85 miles west of New Orleans, were shuttered with the exception of Meche’s Donuts Shop. Owner Todd Hoffpauir did a brisk business despite the pounding winds and pulsating rain.
While making doughnuts, Hoffpauir said, he heard an explosion and a ripping sound and later saw that the wind had peeled off layers of the roof at an apartment complex.
In some places, residents continued to build defenses. At the edge of the town of Jean Lafitte just outside New Orleans, volunteers helped several town employees sandbag a 600-foot stretch of the two-lane state highway. The street was already lined with one-ton sandbags, and 30-pound bags were being used to strengthen them.
“I’m here for my family, trying to save their stuff,” volunteer Vinnie Tortorich said. “My cousin’s house is already under.”
In Lafayette, Willie Allen and his grandson Gavin Coleman, 11, shoveled sand into 20 green bags, joining more than 20 other people doing the same thing during a break in the rain. Allen loaded the bags onto the back of his pickup.
“Everybody is preparing,” he said.
Many businesses were shut down or closed early in Baton Rouge.
Oil and gas operators evacuated hundreds of platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 70% of Gulf oil production and 56% of gas production were turned off Saturday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
A man stands in the flood at Don’z On the Lake as wind from Tropical Storm Barry pushes water over the Lake Pontchartrain seawall Saturday.