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Along The Gulf Coast, People Are Preparing For Tropical Storm Barry


Along the Gulf Coast, people are preparing for Tropical Storm Barry. It's expected to make landfall in Louisiana Saturday morning. In New Orleans, officials are getting ready for several days of rain and potential flooding. Travis Lux from member station WWNO reports.

TRAVIS LUX, BYLINE: Daphne Spears walked into her local grocery store this morning with just two items on her storm preparation list - water and wine.


LUX: Those are the staples?

SPEARS: Yes, that's my staples (laughter).

LUX: She rounds the corner of the bottled water aisle. It's completely wiped out from the night before, except for a fresh new stack of Dasani, which she says is too expensive.

SPEARS: OK. That would be a no. So it's just the wine today.


LUX: Spears says she'll get her water elsewhere and is taking other precautions ahead of the storm, like charging all over electronic devices. She's concerned but not worried right now.

SPEARS: It's pretty much going to be a rain event, I think, because it's just - it's not hitting here directly.

LUX: It's too early to know just where on the Louisiana coast Barry will make landfall. But New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell says no matter where the storm hits or how strong the winds end up being, rain and particularly flooding are the main concerns.


LATOYA CANTRELL: We do expect that this storm will be slow-moving. What that means is that there is a possibility, as it's moving slow, that we're going to get heavy rainfall for up to 48 hours, it could be.

LUX: That's going to cause problems all across south Louisiana, but it's really scary for New Orleans. The drainage system here is extremely old and struggles to keep up with heavy rains. Just yesterday, a storm dropped more than 7 inches of rain in less than two hours. In many neighborhoods, cars, homes and businesses were swamped by several feet of water. For now, New Orleans officials are not calling for evacuations despite the bigger flooding threat. Ghassan Korban oversees drainage in the city.

GHASSAN KORBAN: Based on the forecasted weather and the intensity of rain, we believe that you're going to have a repeat of what happened yesterday.

LUX: The other big concern has to do with the Mississippi River levees. There's been historic flooding on the river this year, and it's still super high. Barry is expected to push storm surge up the river and increase water levels by several feet, meaning the river could spill over the tops of some levees. That could happen in nearby Plaquemines Parish, where mandatory evacuations are in place. But Brad Guarisco with the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't see that happening in New Orleans.

BRAD GUARISCO: Right now our data and modeling does not indicate any overtopping. Obviously, conditions can change, so the residents should stay vigilant.

LUX: And it's not just a coastal concern. The heavy rains and flooding from Tropical Storm Barry are expected to be a problem for hundreds of miles inland. For NPR News, I'm Travis Lux in New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Travis is WWNO's coastal reporter.