Severe thunderstorms prompted tornado warnings and inundated downtown New Orleans on Wednesday morning, causing travel to be disrupted and forcing the closure of City Hall. The flooding occurred as a brewing tropical system, which has become Tropical Storm Barry, gathered strength over the Gulf of Mexico.
A flash flood emergency was declared in Jefferson Parish, with nearly 8 inches of rain reported in some areas. A total of 6.27 inches was observed at the heliport in downtown New Orleans, while Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in the northwestern part of the city reported 1.54 inches. In Bridge City, located southwest of downtown, 7.75 inches of rain fell.
New Orleans city officials and those with the National Weather Service urged residents to stay off the roads and to seek higher ground if they encountered flooding. An EarthCam posted in the French Quarter captured video of the city’s iconic Bourbon Street underwater as cars navigated the intersection and heavy rain continued falling. Between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. local time, about 5.56 inches fell in downtown New Orleans.
“Heavy downpours will still be a threat over the coming days as the budding tropical system moves by just off of the coast to the south,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said.
The tropical threat brewing for late week and into the weekend has the potential to unleash a deluge of more than 2 feet of rain to parts of the Gulf states, which Sojda said posed a dangerous situation for the Louisiana coastline.
“This weekend looks to carry the most significant flooding threat for southern Louisiana, as what is expected to be Hurricane Barry by that time makes landfall in southwestern Louisiana,” Sojda said. He added, “Areas to the east of the landfall point are expected to see the heaviest rain this weekend, with 20-plus inches possible in spots. This threat includes New Orleans.”
The heavy rain on Wednesday and the approaching precipitation from the developing tropical system over the Gulf fueled flooding concerns and sparked evacuations in and around New Orleans.
Offshore oil operators in the Gulf of Mexico have already evacuated platforms and rigs, KATC reports.
A mandatory evacuation was ordered for the east bank of Plaquemines Parish starting at 6 a.m. Thursday. Parts of the west bank are also under a mandatory evacuation, spanning from the Oakville floodgate south to Venice.
Voluntary evacuations were also issued starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, for the same areas.
Additionally, Mayor David Camardelle of Grand Isle issued a voluntary evacuation just after 3 p.m. CDT, as a precautionary measure.