Tropical Storm Barry is aiming for landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in Louisiana. It may come ashore in a relatively low population area, but its effects will expand over a large region, including many major population centers.
With maximum rainfall of at least 20 inches predicted, flooding is the preeminent concern, and the risk of high water will extend well inland from the coast. There’s also a chance for some tornadoes, as is common in tropical weather systems making landfall in the region.
Let’s take a look at the wet and windy forecast for a set of cities.
Morgan City may be the population center closest to where Barry makes landfall, and home to some of its worst impacts. Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in effect in the city of about 12,000 people. Wind is forecast to reach 50 to 65 mph sustained with gusts to 90 mph. A storm surge of three to five feet above normally dry land is also anticipated as the storm makes landfall Saturday morning, inundating low-lying areas near the coast.
Rain totals should surpass a foot and perhaps approach 20 inches in this area. In addition to damaging winds from Barry itself, tornadoes are possible, as well. The forecast is similar in Jeanerette and New Iberia.
About 40 miles northwest, Lafayette is the biggest city near the center of the predicted storm track within 60 miles of the coast. A tropical storm warning is up there, where heavy showers and storms start as soon as late Friday. The bulk of the rain and wind are expected from Saturday morning through midday Sunday. Sustained winds of tropical storm force (39 mph+) and gusts to around 60 or 80 mph are likely, along with about six to 10 inches of rain. If the storm ends up tracking a bit more to the east, rain and wind risks may diminish somewhat.
Despite its inland location, Baton Rouge may experience some of the worst impacts from Barry, since the heaviest rain is likely to set up east of the center of its track. Tropical storm conditions are expected Saturday, with the risk of damaging gusts. The heaviest rain may come Saturday night into early Sunday, when flooding concerns increase rapidly. Rainfall totals in excess of a foot seem a good bet in this region. To the south, as much as 20 inches is forecast. Making matters worse, many rivers like the Mississippi are already at flood stage. This area may also face a threat from tornadoes in rain bands — although most tropical twisters are weak and short-lived.
To the east in New Orleans, the worst conditions are expected Saturday, when bands of very heavy rain are likely. The edge of the heaviest rain may end up near the city. Some computer models forecast as little as two inches of rain while others predict up to 15 inches, so small shifts in the storm track could have major implications. The official forecast is for around six to eight inches of rain.
To the east, Gulfport, Miss., was already dealing with Barry’s outer bands on Friday. Waves of heavy showers and gusty winds will continue across the region through at least Saturday. Roughly half a foot of rain is possible although, like in New Orleans, the edge of the heaviest precipitation may end up near the city. Storm surge and tropical storm watches are in effect, but winds are likely to stay below criteria and expected surge is on the order of one to three feet at this point.
In central Louisiana, Alexandria is right along the edge of the more significant rainfall. If the storm tracks east of the city, rainfall totals will be reduced. As of now, about three to five inches of rain is expected as the center tracks just to the east Saturday night into early Sunday. In addition to the rain, some damaging wind gusts are possible.
Given Barry’s forecast track, initially moving north but then bending eastward, Jackson, Miss., could see periods of rain and thunderstorms lasting several days. Flooding is a risk if heavy rain bands track over the city repeatedly. Eight to 10 inches are predicted in Jackson and much of western Mississippi, but shifts in the storm track could mean higher or lower amounts. Tornadoes may also become a risk both Saturday and Sunday.
The forecast uncertainty grows farther north into Little Rock. Here the weather doesn’t head downhill until Sunday and perhaps late Sunday. Some model forecasts bring the storm center into the area, where it meanders and dies out before getting swept away. Other model forecasts steer the storm to its east. The wetter forecasts, which bring the center close to the city, predict about three to six inches, and even more if the storm stalls. The city could also end up mostly dry if Barry tracks to the east.
After Barry meanders across the south-central United States for a few days, the remnants are expected to get picked up by the jet stream and pushed toward the Ohio Valley and off the Mid-Atlantic coast by late next week.