Tropical Depression Barry has been downgraded to its current status after smashing into Louisiana as the first hurricane of the season on Saturday, and it mostly spared the city of New Orleans from a potentially devastating direct hit. But torrential downpour has put 11 million people at risk of “epic flooding” as it crawls across the state at just nine miles per hour, per CNN.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) estimated on Sunday that Barry (now north of Shreveport and heading into Arkansas) is still primed to drop “rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches over south-central Louisiana, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches,” as well as dump up to a foot of rain throughout the Lower Mississippi Valley, according to CNN. That amount of rainfall is “expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding,” according to the NHC. CNN meteorologist Haley Brink estimated some 11 million people are under flash flood warnings, while tornadoes were also “possible across areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas today.”
In Mississippi, forecasters said 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain had fallen in parts of Jasper and Jones counties, with several more inches possible. With torrential rain pounding the state’s Interstate 59 corridor, only the headlights of oncoming cars were visible on the highway, and water flowed like a creek in the median.
“Some people may think that the threat is over,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Saturday. “Some people may be tempted to think that because it was a Category 1 when it came ashore and has already been downgraded to a tropical storm, that it does not present a threat.”
Around 91,000 customers in Louisiana remain without power, mainly in the southern portion of the state, according to poweroutage.us. NPR reported that Edward said that levees overtopping—a subject of considerable anxiety before the storm hit—has been resolved and is no longer a major concern. (While initial estimates projected that the Mississippi River could have risen 19 feet in New Orleans, the National Weather Service has downgraded their estimate to 17.1 feet.) The Louisiana National Guard has deployed 3,000 troops and carried out some rescues by helicopter of people trapped on rooftops and high ground.
Barry was projected to be far more of a threat to the region in some estimates, with Nola.com reporting that forecasters were having trouble determining where the exact center of the storm was. Ultimately the storm ended up dropping most of its rain offshore before landfall, and its movement west limited storm surge sent up the Mississippi River. On Friday, Nola.com wrote, projections of rainfall were 10 to 20 inches over south-central and southeastern Louisiana, with some areas possibly seeing up to 25 inches—predictions that thankfully did not materialize.