New Orleans was already hit with massive rains Wednesday, saturating the ground with up to 10 inches in some areas.
Tropical Storm Barry has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to become a weak Category 1 hurricane before making landfall Saturday between western Mississippi and eastern Texas.
Barry is about 95 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi, moving west at 5 mph. It has sustained winds of 40 mph.
Previous story: A dawdling disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to gain tropical status today before becoming the first hurricane of the 2019 season within the next two days.
The National Hurricane Center said the intensity forecast has weakened somewhat, and a low Category 1 cyclone with 75 mph winds is predicted to form just before landfall between western Mississippi and eastern Texas on Saturday.
“Regardless of where the system eventually makes landfall, it appears that pretty much the entire forecast area will see significant impacts from this storm with the potential for heavy rainfall being the greatest threat,” National Weather Service meteorologists in New Orleans wrote in a morning forecast. “Rainfall amounts of 10 to 15 inches will be possible through the weekend with isolated amounts up to 20 inches.”
READ MORE: The Palm Beach Post’s hurricane tracking map
The system will be named Barry when it reaches tropical storm status — a closed center circulation with wind speeds of at least 39 mph.
A hurricane watch in effect for most of the Louisiana coastline and storm surge heights of 3 to 6 feet are expected west of the Mississippi and northwest of Lake Pontchartrain.
Although Louisiana’s flood control systems have undergone major upgrades since Hurricane Katrina, Weather Underground co founder Jeff Masters fears a slow-moving storm like 2012′s Isaac might overwhelm the defenses.
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“If Isaac had hit when the Mississippi River was at flood stage, the surge could have overtopped the levees in New Orleans,” Masters said in his blog. “The Mississippi river is near flood stage, with the waters of the river lapping just four feet below the lowest point in the levee system protecting the city.”
New Orleans was already hit with massive rains Wednesday, saturating the ground with up to 10 inches in some areas. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for all of Louisiana on Wednesday.
“No one should take this storm lightly,” he said. “As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact.”
Water temperatures in the mid to upper 80s are certainly warm enough in the Gulf of Mexico to support a hurricane.
While landfalling hurricanes are unusual in July, the would-be Barry isn’t unique.
According to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach, the last hurricane to make landfall along the Gulf Coast in July was Hurricane Dolly in South Padre Island in 2008.
Since the satellite era began in the late 1960s, 12 out of 60 July named storms that have formed have done so in the Gulf of Mexico. The most recent was Tropical Storm Emily in 2017.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.