July 15, 2019, 11:38 a.m., Pacific: I’ve changed the embedded video from now-discontinued live coverage to the current update from the local Channel 4 because that shows Tropical Depression “Barry” at its amazingly HUGE extent and also shows that this event is not over.
They’re having heavy rainfall and flash flooding in central Louisiana, and I’m wondering how Mississippi is going to do today with all those bands. At least the system is moving more quickly now.
Also, the storm surge may have been underestimated, but it’s still too early to get final numbers yet.
This event wasn’t as bad as it might have been, and the video up above shows why, but it was (and is, as of the time of writing) still pretty bad.
July 14, 2019, 6:12 a.m., Pacific: Well, all that dry air really helped reduce the flooding threat from Barry, apparently.
I thought most of Louisiana would be a mass of purple and red on this morning’s NOAA river forecast graph, and it isn’t. Yay!
Barry is still a tropical storm and still moving slowly, so it’s important to keep an eye out — this flooding is going to be around for a while. But, fortunately, it appears that the catastrophic flooding that could have happened didn’t materialize.
This time around.
July 12, 2019, 6:56 a.m. Pacific: Not many changes, though it looks like Barry may make landfall a little farther west than expected. That’s not good news for the Morgan City, Louisiana, area, which may get up to 25 inches of rain from Barry, plus heavy storm surge, but it’s a little good news for New Orleans.
Only a little, though. There are so many scary “ifs” in this.
The water immediately offshore is very warm and that can trigger sudden intensification of a tropical system just before it reaches land — bad news for people. But it doesn’t always happen. It’s just not predictable. So there’s that.
Also, Lake Ponchetrain is already 2 feet above normal levels, per this report and will rise more from surge and heavy rainfall that is predicted for the area — 10-20 inches, sometimes falling at rates of 2-4 inches per hour.
The biggest unknown is the fact that Barry is due in, per the current National Hurricane Center advisory, around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, and the Mississippi River crest, predicted to be 19 feet, is due to arrive at 2 a.m. Saturday morning.
As far as I know (though my knowledge about this isn’t extensive), that concatenation of natural events has not happened here before. No one can sure how it’s going to play out.
July 11, 2019, 10:15 a.m. Pacific: This is now a tropical storm, as of about an hour ago, but even as an unnamed system it has been the focus of a lot of concern and will still cause problems inland after it weakens and begins to dissipate.
Coastal Louisiana (including New Orleans) and Mississippi are severely threated by flooding from this storm, even though Barry is very weak in terms of high wind potential. That’s because:
- Barry is pulling in a LOT of Gulf moisture
- It’s a slow mover, therefore raining down much more water on any given area than it would if it were zipping along at 50 or 60 mph
- The region is already saturated from previous rains; New Orleans even had bad flooding yesterday from a storm
- The Mississippi River is in flood and the crest is expected Saturday, just when Barry will be in the area
- It’s not certain yet, but New Orleans may be in the northeast quadrant — the region of highest surge and wind speed — during Barry’s approach and landfall
Here’s the local meteorologist at 7 a.m. this morning:
I understand that mandatory evacuation of the worst threatened areas is underway today and everyone else in harm’s way is, hopefully, taking what steps they can before the worst flooding arrives this weekend.
The flood control system down there is complex, and while I don’t know many details, from what I’ve read, they have some flexibility in terms of spillways and so forth. A bit of good news — this morning the river forecasters lowered the expected height of the Mississippi River crest to 19 feet, from 20 feet (the same height as the levee).
On a personal note, I’m not from the South but have lived there (including during the 2005 hurricane season), and to an outsider especially, those levees are one of the wonders of the world — man-made mountains built for exactly this purpose.
And in case you didn’t pick it up in that meteorologist’s report this morning (above), southerners are survivors, cool and calm when weather turns dangerous.
I remember that when Hurricane Katrina was coming towards us, in West Central Alabama, all my neighbors were mowing their lawns. It made no sense to me until after the storm — the grass grows with tropical vigor there anyway, and with all the trees down and other concerns after Katrina’s passage, the lawns would have been hayfields before they could be mowed again. I know mine was.
One other recollection: My experiences with severe weather in Alabama got me interested in following weather information online, and an added horror to the Katrina disaster was watching that hurricane come in, knowing it was going to be really bad, and seeing everybody pretty much ignore or downplay the meteorologists’ warnings.
It’s good to see that no one is making that mistake today. People are forewarned and forearmed as this next man-v.-nature tussle comes on.
A schedule note — Am going to move this week’s Feline Friday and Sunday Morning Volcano posts to next week because of the TS Barry situation (not that it affects me directly, but I will be following it closely).
Featured image: Mississippi River gauge from 2011, by Lance Cheung/USDA, CC BY-ND 2.0,