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Flood warnings have been issued in Louisiana and Mississippi, as Barry slowly moves north.CreditCreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times

After a brief life as a hurricane, Barry is now a tropical storm. Its center is about 20 miles west of Lafayette, La.

The storm is moving northwest at 7 m.p.h., and forecasters predict it will continue through central Louisiana on Saturday night. Maximum sustained wind speeds are now near 65 m.p.h. and tropical-storm-force winds are extending outward up to 175 miles from the center.


CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

But wind speed is not what is troubling much of the region. Experts predict possible rains of up to 25 inches in parts of southern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi, and the slow-moving storm could create big flooding risks in inland areas like greater Baton Rouge. Officials issued mandatory evacuation orders in communities along the coast, including parts of Plaquemines, Jefferson and Lafourche Parishes.

[We’re keeping track of the storm through photographs, too.]

Barry made landfall late Saturday morning at Intracoastal City, a low-lying industrial town in Vermilion Parish south of Lafayette. Becky Broussard, the parish’s homeland security director, said the lone road leading to the town had flooded. But so far her office has not received any calls about structural damage. She estimated around 75 people live in Intracoastal City, which was under a voluntary evacuation.

“We’re still not out of the woods yet,” Ms. Broussard said, noting that the area was still expecting more storm surge and 10 to 15 inches of rain over the next 24 hours.

A small levee that overtopped in Terrebonne Parish, southwest of New Orleans, prompted officials there to order a mandatory evacuation for residents in the parish’s lowest reaches on Saturday afternoon. There are an estimated 330 households in the evacuation zone, according to Mart Black, the director of the parish’s coastal restoration department.

A different stretch of earthen levees also overtopped in the parish on Saturday morning. A parish spokesman said the top of the levee had been contained within 20 minutes of overtopping to stop the water flow.

In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, officials said earthen levees along cow pastures and Highway 23 had overtopped in spots, sending water into the sparsely populated Myrtle Grove and Point Celeste communities.

Foster Creppel, the owner of Woodland Plantation in nearby West Pointe a la Hache, said he could see water pouring through a gap in a levee under construction around a pumping station. He said the water was flowing unabated.

“If they don’t bring some rocks to close up that opening, it’s going to flood everything down here,” Mr. Creppel said. “It’s pouring in.”

Benny Rousselle, a Plaquemines Parish councilman and the former parish president, said that contractors had put flood barriers in vulnerable levee spots at two pumping stations, but that those had failed. He said water was filling up the cow pastures on Saturday afternoon and, left unimpeded, could swamp the highway.

Jade Duplessis, a parish spokeswoman, said contractors were on site to patch the levees. “These areas in which we’re seeing this overtopping, this was anticipated,” Ms. Duplessis said.

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell remained confident about the city’s response, but she said flooding was still a threat and warned people to not get comfortable.

“We are not out of the conditions that will cause heavy rainfall for the city of New Orleans,” Ms. Cantrell said at City Hall on Saturday morning.

Officials said the potential for the Mississippi River to overtop levees ringing the New Orleans metropolitan area is no longer a concern. The river is predicted to peak at 17.1 feet on Monday, below the 20-foot levees.

No curfew will be called on Saturday, said Superintendent Shaun Ferguson of the New Orleans Police Department.

[Read: Katrina on its mind, New Orleans is keeping an eye on its levees and pumps.]

Residents were still waiting to see whether their complex flood protection system would hold in the storm, though fears of wholesale failure seemed to have subsided by Saturday afternoon.

Gwendolyn Adams, a retired elementary school teacher in the Lower Ninth Ward, said she had fled to Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and returned to find her home in ruins. What worries her now is not so much the rain flooding the streets, but whether the levees will work. Still, she said she was staying put this weekend.

“If something is for me,” Ms. Adams, 67, said, “it’s going to happen no matter where I am. If I’m supposed to flood, and I’m at the top of a mountain, it’s going to get to me.”

In Baton Rouge, which is under a flood watch through Sunday evening, Christopher Tyson and other residents were worried that the expected rain and river surges would undo the city’s work to restore homes that were damaged by severe flooding three years ago.

The 2016 flood killed 13 people and displaced tens of thousands in the area, some of whom have not been able to move back into their houses.

“Just as New Orleans has a pre-Katrina and post-Katrina relationship with hurricanes, Baton Rouge has a pre- and post-flood relationship with these storms,” said Mr. Tyson, the chief executive of Build Baton Rouge, which works with the city to develop blighted properties. “I think there is a PTSD that many people experience.”

“We certainly are bracing,” Mr. Tyson added.

Jonny Dunnam, a deputy chief at the Baton Rouge Police Department, said he was most concerned about the Comite River, which is north of the city and is expected to rise to more than 34 feet, breaking a record that was set during the 2016 flood. River levels above 30 feet will cause “widespread major flooding” of nearby neighborhoods, the National Weather Service warned.

Smaller rivers like the Amite to the east and the Comite “can’t handle this level” of water, said Kevin Gilmore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

More than 121,000 people were without power in Louisiana as of about 4 p.m. on Saturday, according to the state’s largest energy companies. Entergy Louisiana reported that about 74,000 of its customers were affected by power failures, mostly in the southern parts of the state. Two other power companies reported a combined 47,000 customers affected.


CreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times

All flights were grounded at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, but the airport said most airlines planned to resume flights on Sunday.

The United States Coast Guard rescued about a dozen people by helicopter early Saturday from a coastal island in southeastern Louisiana outside the area’s flood protection system, according to the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Only about two dozen people live on Isle de Jean Charles, said Mart Black, the parish’s coastal restoration director. The lone road into the island flooded, trapping the residents who had stayed there. A voluntary evacuation order had been issued earlier for Isle de Jean Charles, as well as other areas unprotected by the levee system.

Mr. Black said he was uncertain if other residents remained on the island but believed that all “who wanted to be rescued” were taken away by helicopter. He did not know whether anyone had to be hospitalized.

Isle de Jean Charles, populated in part by Native American tribes whose families have been there for generations, has often been written about as a harbinger to climate change’s impact on coastal communities. The island has lost 98 percent of its land over the last 60 years. It sits about two miles south of the 14-foot levee that protects most of the parish.

Louisiana announced in 2016 that it would move the community inland, using $48 million in federal funding. The state offered to help residents move into rental homes until the new site was ready. (The project is expected to be done next year.) But only half the residents took them up on it.

[Read more about the threat of rising sea levels in Louisiana.]

Forecasters had predicted that Barry would run ashore near Morgan City, about 20 miles from the coast. But David Naquin, homeland security director for St. Mary Parish, which includes Morgan City, said the latest reports indicated that the storm had shifted.

“It’s going to push a little bit further west,” he said.


CreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times

This did not bring him any relief. “Every time it moves west, it’s actually worse for us,” Mr. Naquin said. “We get the worst side of the storm. It just puts us in the bull’s-eye of all the rain.”

But despite strong winds and increasing rain, Mayor Frank Grizzaffi of Morgan City was cautiously optimistic late Saturday morning. “Things are pretty good here,” he said. “For the most part, we’re holding up.” The city’s biggest concern for the moment was a near-citywide power outage caused by intensifying winds that left streets and yards littered with shattered tree limbs. There have been no reports of injuries, the mayor said.

Mr. Grizzaffi had issued a voluntary evacuation order before the storm but most of Morgan City’s 12,000 residents were opting to stay put. “I would have to say that 90 percent of our population is still here,” he said.

A team of researchers (plus a reporter and a photographer) flew this week into the heart of Hurricane Barry, then a tropical storm, to study its formation over the Gulf of Mexico.


CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Called hurricane hunters, the researchers and their crew launch probes and collect real-time data that is crucial to understanding hurricanes across the globe. It is especially important to gather data from weather systems like Barry that defy predictions: The weirdest storms can sometimes produce the best science.

Flying these planes is not for the faint of heart. Everyone aboard is encouraged to keep a blue plastic sick bag at the ready. Violent turbulence can strike at any time.

[Read the full story here.]

Three years of crushing natural disasters have dwindled the ranks of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, potentially straining its ability to help victims of the storm.


CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Fewer than a quarter of the 13,654 people in FEMA’s trained disaster work force are available to assist with Barry or any other emergency, agency documents show, because the rest are deployed elsewhere or otherwise unavailable. That is down from the 34 percent who were available at this point in 2018, and from 55 percent two years ago.

“I’m worried,” said Elizabeth A. Zimmerman, who ran FEMA’s disaster operations during the Obama administration. “That’s of concern, to make sure that there are enough people to respond.”

[Read more here about the concerns over short-staffing at FEMA.]

The Gulf Coast has always had hurricanes, of course. But the extreme rain associated with this storm, projected to be 10 to 20 inches or even more, fits into emerging research suggesting that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of storms with heavy rainfall.

A warming atmosphere can hold more moisture, dumping it out in the form of heavy downpours — a phenomenon seen not just in storms like Barry, but in the record floods across much of the Midwest this year.

Those floodwaters have fed the Mississippi River, keeping it at flood stage at many points. The Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre spillway above New Orleans twice in one season for the first time since it was built in 1931.

[Read about how hurricanes are getting wetter as the climate changes.]


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Rising ocean temperatures have fueled some of the most devastating storms in recent years. Kendra Pierre-Louis, a reporter on The New York Times’s climate team, explains how.

Reporting was contributed by Richard Fausset, Emily Lane and Beau Evans from New Orleans; Dave Montgomery from Morgan City, La.; Christopher Flavelle from Washington; and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and John Schwartz from New York.


An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a Plaquemines Parish councilman. The councilman’s name is Benny Rousselle, not Rouselle. The article also misspelled the surname of a deputy chief at the Baton Rouge Police Department. The chief’s name is Jonny Dunnam, not Dunnham.

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