A potentially devastating hurricane – expected to be named Barry if formed – could hit the Gulf Coast on Saturday. The National Hurricane Center has issued tropical storm watches for the Gulf Coast after saying “life-threatening” storm surge could hit five feet. The USA body, which is part of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), warned a weather system over the northern Gulf of Mexico is expected to develop into a tropical depression or tropical storm by Thursday – but could hit hurricane level by landfall. The maximum sustained winds of tropical depressions are 38mph while tropical storms are 39mph to 73pmh with anything higher becoming a hurricane.
The weather system’s maximum sustained winds were 30mph at 7pm BST (1pm CDT) – if they increase enough, the system will be called Tropical Storm Barry.
The National Weather Service (NWS) urged people to “begin preparing as soon as possible” in the affected areas.
Where could Hurricane Barry hit?
Hurricane Barry’s path is forecast to hit New Orleans in Louisiana, where flash flooding caused half a foot of rain to fall on Wednesday.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has issued a state of emergency in response warning of hurricane-force conditions.
But a potential hurricane is not the only threat.
NOAA is forecasting more than 20 inches of rainfall over Louisiana once the huge storm hits.
University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd has warned of a “dire scenario” because of a tropical cyclone “overlapping” with current flooding.
Weather forecasters said the Mississippi River levels, already at 19 feet, could break the protected 20 feet barrier for New Orleans.
If this happens, it would mean the city “would never be the same”, according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus.
Governor Edwards told a press conference: “There could be a considerable amount of overtopping of Mississippi River levees in Plaquemines Parish on both the east bank and the west bank.”
What are the latest hurricane warnings?
A storm surge watch is currently in effect for Mouth of Pearl River to Morgan River in Louisiana.
This means tropical storm conditions will take effect within 48 hours.
A tropical storm watch for the mouth of the Mississippi River to Morgan City is also valid over the same time period.
NOAA said the Upper Texas coast was also threatened.
The weather system was churning slowly at 8mph at 7pm BST (1pm CDT).