Storm off Fla. has hurricane potential
The second storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was likely to form along the Gulf Coast and could make landfall around Louisiana on Saturday as a treacherous system.
The weather disturbance, spinning off the coast of the Florida Panhandle, could either form as a tropical depression or a tropical storm. If the depression’s winds reach 39 mph, it would become Tropical Storm Barry.
It’s expected to hit the Gulf Coast as a hurricane Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.
“This system has the potential to become a dangerous hurricane,” the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said on its Facebook page. “The threat for damaging winds and deadly storm surge is increasing.”
A tropical storm watch and a storm surge watch were in effect for portions of Louisiana as the system gathered strength Wednesday.
The storm could bring more heavy rain and flooding to New Orleans, which was inundated with up to half a foot of
rain Wednesday morning, triggering a flash flood emergency for the area. A tornado or waterspout was spotted near the University of New Orleans, WWL-TV said.
The Mississippi River in New Orleans is forecast to crest near 20 feet Saturday, the weather service said – and the average levee height for New Orleans is 20 feet, said meteorologist David Bernard of Fox 8 in New Orleans.
University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd called this “a potentially dire situation.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Wednesday for all of Louisiana because of possible flooding, winds and storm surge.
“There could be a considerable amount of overtopping of Mississippi River levees in Plaquemines Parish on both the east bank and the west bank,” Edwards said at a news conference.
He ordered the Louisiana National Guard to deploy soldiers and high-water vehicles to the most vulnerable areas.
The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday there’s a 100% chance a tropical depression will form within the next 48 hours in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Regardless of the eventual track and intensity of the system, heavy rainfall is expected from the Florida Panhandle to the Upper Texas Coast extending inland across portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley, much of Louisiana and eastern Texas,” the hurricane center said.
BAM Weather meteorologist Ryan Maue said, “Totals probably will exceed 20-30 inches in Louisiana.”
AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said, “Our greatest concern is for torrential rain that would result in life-threatening flooding.”
Officials in New Orleans are monitoring for potential storm surge effects on the Mississippi River, AccuWeather said.
The most recent July hurricane to hit the continental USA was Hurricane Arthur in North Carolina in 2014, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.
“The most recent July tropical storm landfall was Tropical Storm Emily in Florida in 2017,” he said.
The strongest recent storm to make landfall in the USA in July was Hurricane Dennis, which hit the western Florida Panhandle on July 10, 2005, as a Category 3, the Weather Channel said.