Potential Tropical Cyclone Two is about 170 nautical miles SE of New Orleans and moving west at about 7 mph. Maximum sustained winds currently are approximately 30 mph and the National Hurricane Center expects the system to strengthen over the next couple of days and become Hurricane Barry, the first named storm of the year.
The system is expected to move west through Thursday and turn to the north by Friday. Peak seas are forecast to be more than 20 feet.
Governors in Texas and Louisiana were both urging residents in coastal areas to be ready to deal with flooding that will precede the storm. “Begin preparing your property, your supplies, your lines of communication to your family members,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “Begin preparing to know exactly where you need to go if you need to evacuate.”
The state also has high-water rescue boat squads ready to help, according to CNN affiliate KEYE.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards has already declared a state of emergency. He estimated that up to 15 inches of rain could fall within 24 hours between Friday and Saturday.
“This is going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and heavy rainfall potential impacting every part of the state,” Edwards said in the statement. “No one should take this storm lightly. As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact.” Edwards was referring to Hurricane Katrina, which was downgraded to a Category 2 before it made landfall in 2005.
New Orleans felt the first round of the tropical system on Wednesday. A tornado warning was issued and the area was hit with up to 9 inches of rain that flooded streets and homes. In a worst-case scenario, if the storm continues to move slowly, it could hover over the mouth of the Mississippi River and dump rain relentlessly the way Harvey did over Houston two years ago.
According to CNN, the National Weather Service is warning that the Mississippi River could crest at 20 feet in New Orleans, which is 1.3 feet below a record.
The city is protected to a height of 20 feet. Concerned that storm surge could cause additional flooding, city officials closed flood gates and more than 200 of the flood apparatus are expected to be closed in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes by Friday.
If Barry forms in the Gulf of Mexico, it could impact offshore oil and gas rigs, which are being evacuated or moved out of the path of the storm.