- The Washington Times
Sunday, July 14, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — Although tornado and flash flood warnings remained in effect in scattered locations, Louisiana was spared any sort of major disaster as Hurricane Barry, the first named storm to make landfall in the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, came ashore.

By Sunday afternoon, flood warnings had been lifted on the maze of rivers that crisscross southern Louisiana and feed into the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the tornado warnings on Sunday extended across the state line into a handful of southwestern Mississippi counties, although there were no reports of any actual twisters spotted.

Officials had braced for the worst, even though Barry remained a tropical storm throughout most of its formative days in the Gulf and returned to that category almost immediately after hitting land. The storm’s sustained winds did get into the Category 1 hurricane classification briefly.

Authorities dispersed thousands of National Guardsmen and hundreds of evacuation buses were in place in areas from Baton Rouge and southwest down to Morgan City, the expected spot where Barry’s eye and Louisiana would meet. In addition, the state had helicopter and other rescue crews in place at spots outside the zones that they feared could be underwater if Barry delivered anything close to its predicted 20-plus inches of rain.

Officials adopted the same aggressive stance toward storm preparation that has become a staple since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region in August 2005.

While at no point did Barry even threaten a Katrina-style monster, residents were told to remain wary even after the brunt of the storm had passed.

“A big risk of flooding in large parts of Louisiana and all across the Gulf Coast,” President Trump tweeted Sunday. “Please be very careful!”

Mr. Trump’s warning came as forecasters called for continuing pockets of heavy rain through Monday. Due to Barry’s turtle pace, the storm has lingered over areas some of which may be drenched with up to 15 inches of rain, although lower levels are likely in most of southern Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service.

A combination of Barry and series of severe thunderstorms that preceded had already overwhelmed New Orleans’ perpetually troubled drainage system, and as a consequence the lowest-lying areas in the below-sea-level bowl that the city occupies did experience flooding.

In addition, by Sunday afternoon Barry had knocked out power to more than 110,000 customers in southern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, with repair crews hampered by downed trees and water that made work difficult and dangerous.

While neither downtown Baton Rouge nor New Orleans imposed one, West Baton Rouge Parish and some others around the capital kept curfews in effect during the weekend, a move made to ease travel for first responders and repair crews not out of any fear of lawlessness, officials said.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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