Now-Tropical Depression Barry Mostly Spares New Orleans, But Flood Risk Remains High

Barry Williams wading through storm surge from Lake Ponchartrain on July 13 in Mandeville, Louisiana.
Barry Williams wading through storm surge from Lake Ponchartrain on July 13 in Mandeville, Louisiana.
Photo: Matthew Hinton (AP)

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.

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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.”

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Per the Associated Press:

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.

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“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.

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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.

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DISCUSSION

hellomylover
Hello, America: Never Fuck a Republican

As of the writing of this article, the NWS had removed all warnings and watches for New Orleans and the city announced they were reinstating parking restrictions as of 8am Monday (during weather they let us park on neutral grounds and sidewalks and stuff). People are heading to work as normal today. The remaining threats are for places outside of New Orleans. We are now predicted to get a reasonable and manageable amount of rain, which, were it not on the ass end of a storm, no one would be reporting on. Please do not imply the threat is still imminent specifically for New Orleans, who really as of Friday was not even expected to get the worst of this rain. We here are getting a bit fatigued of the national media talking about flooding and showing scary footage and stuff and implying it’s NOLA when it’s not - this both does a disservice to the people actually suffering and is exploiting Katrina and other hurricane survivors via disaster porn. Pretty fucked up. Please don’t play into this. (This opinion piece really sums up my feelings: https://www.bayoubrief.com/2019/07/12/national-news-coverage-of-tropical-storm-barry-is-its-own-disaster/

The river was determined not to be a threat to us by early Friday - yes, 3 days ago (although it’s not like this won’t come up again - it IS worth talking about in a more general sense). Once that happened, we were merely looking at a shit load of rain, but even the worst predictions had it falling fairly close to a pace our pumps can handle most of the time (unlike our unrelated flooding Wednesday, where they say we got 8" in a couple hours and our pumps can only take about 1" for the first hour and 1/2" every hour after that). It really seems that once the media lost the river story, they couldn’t let go of that sweet sweet Katrina panic sensationalism and move onto more boring things like the bayou flooding and non-New Orleanians running for their lives.

Make no mistake - we were nervous and vigilant, as we always are with these things. But we had moved onto a whole new phase of preparation and expectations while y’all are still out there assuming we were going to be washed away.

It’s not great, but we are used to it raining a lot and we are prepared for flash flooding. It is upsetting when people’s cars and homes flood and we have been pressuring our government for years to do something about it, but after the river threat went away, we were not talking about people being swept away to their doom and houses being blown off their foundations. Really, “flash flooding” here looks very different from like, for example, Nebraska. We live with that threat all the time. People who evacuated after the river threat went down were doing so to get their families to a place where they wouldn’t lose power and maybe get their car outta town - not running screaming for their lives (those who left while the river threat was still real did that). Flash flooding happens a few times a year. Bad? Yes. Worth making my grandmother in TX stay up all night praying? No. We’re talking about people getting a few inches in the few buildings in low lying areas that aren’t raised.

New Orleans got lucky and didn’t even get the rain that was predicted, but that hasn’t stopped the media from showing pictures of Terrebonne and Plaquemines Parishes and acting like it’s “right outside” New Orleans (you have to understand the topography and the levee system to understand why them flooding doesn’t mean we do). We have been fielding nonstop panic from our friends and family across the nation who are literally watching CNN and seeing photos of Katrina in the Lower 9th (when a fucking boat went through a levee) and being told we are on the brink of that.

I’m not one of those people who gets disappointed when weather predictions are wrong and decide I don’t believe in science, or the narcissistic idea that because a storm didn’t hit ME it wasn’t a big deal. I know we live on borrowed time here. But the misinformation is not helping anyone. Mississippi was largely hit by surprise. Terrebone and some parts of Jefferson Parishes were evacuated at the 11th hour in the midst of the storming and flooding. The cities at risk (NOLA, Baton Rouge, Lafayette) largely fell in between rain bands and the surrounding lower lying areas got a shit load of rain. THESE ARE THE STORIES.

TL;DR - consider a headline change to this article that makes it clear this storm is fucking up life for a lot of other people and New Orleans doesn’t need to be the center of the coverage.