New Orleans: Carrying “off the chart” amounts of moisture, Barry crawled ashore Saturday in Louisiana and quickly weakened to a tropical storm that promised to dump heavy rains that could last for days and pose a test of the flood-prevention systems built after Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago.
The storm made landfall near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, about 160 miles west of New Orleans, and its winds fell to 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
The Coast Guard rescued more than a dozen people from the remote Isle de Jean Charles, south of New Orleans, where water rose so high that some residents clung to rooftops. But in the city, locals and tourists wandered through mostly empty streets under a light rain or stayed indoors.
Video showed water overtopping a levee in Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans, where fingers of land extend deep into the Gulf of Mexico. Officials were still confident that the levees would hold firm.
More than 70,000 customers were without power Saturday morning, including nearly 67,000 in Louisiana and more than 3,000 in Mississippi, according to poweroutage.us.
Hours earlier, the storm had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), just above the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to be a hurricane. Barry was expected to continue weakening and become a tropical depression on Sunday.
The system threatened disastrous flooding across a swath of the Gulf Coast.
During a storm update through Facebook Live, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham pointed to a computer screen showing a huge, swirling mess of airborne water. “That is just an amazing amount of moisture,” he said. “That is off the chart.”
Downpours also lashed coastal Alabama and Mississippi. Parts of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama 200 miles (322 kilometers) from where Barry was headed, were flooded both by rain and surging water from the Gulf, said Mayor Jeff Collier, who was driving around in a Humvee to survey damage. He said the island still had power early Saturday afternoon and wind damage was minimal.
Water was flowing over a “back levee” in Point Celeste in Plaquemines Parish, officials said in an automated telephone recording distributed to residents. The levee was not on the Mississippi River, and there was no indication that the barrier was breached or broken or that major flooding was occurring, the recording said.