Nearly 50,000 people are without power as Tropical Storm Barry nears landfall on Louisiana’s south-central coast.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said rainbands from the system began to move onshore early Saturday with maximum winds of 105 km/hr. The storm was on track to reach hurricane strength shortly before crossing the coastline.
Meteorologists have warned that torrential rain — as much as 60 centimetres in some places — could unleash severe flooding.
According to Entergy Louisiana’s outages map, more than 45,800 people have been affected by power outages. Nearly a fourth of those outages were in coastal Terrebonne Parish. A number of other southern parishes were affected, including Jefferson Parish outside of New Orleans.
Those parishes were east of Morgan City, where Barry is expected to make landfall as a hurricane later Saturday morning.
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the levees, have insisted that no significant breaching of the six-metre-high levees in New Orleans was likely.
The brunt of Barry’s force was expected to skirt the western edge of New Orleans, avoiding a direct hit on a low-lying city virtually surrounded on all sides by rising waters.
But Mayor LaToya Cantrell said 48 hours of heavy downpours could overwhelm pumps designed to purge streets and storm drains of excess water.
“There is no system in the world that can handle that amount of rainfall in such a short period,” Cantrell said on Twitter.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on Friday, freeing up federal disaster assistance if needed.