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Flood gates closed in New Orleans as Barry approaches Louisiana

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Tropical Storm Barry is starting to make its approach on the Southeast as residents scramble to make last-minute preparations before landfall.

“This is going to be a significant weather event,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards cautioned in a post on Twitter, “and if you haven’t already done so, the time to prepare is NOW.” At a press conference on Friday, Edwards vowed the state was ready for impact and levees in New Orleans should withstand the floodwaters.

“The levees are stronger than they’ve ever been,” Edwards told reporters. “The system is tighter than its ever been. Our state is better prepared.”

During its 7 p.m. CDT update, the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Barry had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving west-northwest at 4 mph. The center of the storm was located about 85 miles south-southeast of Morgan City, La., and 120 miles west-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Voluntary evacuations have been issued across New Orleans for areas that are not protected by the levees. People that plan to evacuate should act fast and leave before the rain begins.

Louisiana has declared a state of emergency in advance of Barry’s arrival as residents and crews work to brace the city for impact. Residents have been told to shelter in place by 8 p.m. CDT Friday.

Every flood gate has been closed along Lake Pontchartrain due to the anticipated flooding. The city of New Orleans is not offering any sandbags, but businesses are residents have stepped up to provide sandbags for people in town. AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala captured video of dozens of resident pitching in to fill up sandbags in preparation for Barry.

Not only have flights been delayed in New Orleans, but so has this weekend’s Rolling Stones concert. Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones were set to perform in the Superdome on Sunday, but the concert has been moved to Monday due to Barry. The date of the concert could potentially change again due to the lingering impacts from Barry.

Barry spinning just off the coast of Louisiana early Friday afternoon. (Image/NOAA)

Barry will continue to strengthen leading up to landfall on Friday night or early Saturday morning, when it is forecast to be a Category 1 hurricane. However, people should not focus on the storm’s wind speed, but instead be wary of the rain it will unleash across the region.

“Our greatest concern is for torrential rain that would result in life-threatening flooding,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. “AccuWeather meteorologists expect a maximum storm surge of 3-6 feet mostly along and just to the right of the storm’s path.”

Storm surge began to inundate the coast of Louisiana on Friday morning as Barry gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico. AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer reported from just outside of Chauvin, Louisiana, about an hour south of New Orleans.

7 p.m. CDT Friday: Southwest Airlines has joined the list of airlines that has canceled flights in and out of New Orleans for Saturday, July 13. Cancellations and delays at the airport could continue through the weekend and into the start of next week due to Barry. The complete list of travel advisories at the New Orleans airport can be found here.

The FAA has also issued a NOTAM for drone pilots across much of southern Louisiana and Mississippi through Sunday, July 14. “Avoid flying in the area unless conducting an active disaster response or recovery mission,” the FAA said on their website.

3:20 p.m. CDT Friday: Although the center of Barry and the storm’s heaviest rain is still over the Gulf of Mexico, some roads near the coast of Louisiana are already impassible due to flooding storm surge.

The City of New Orleans has called for voluntary evacuations for people living outside of areas protected by the levees. Those that do plan on evacuating should do so in the next few hours. Once the heavy, flooding rain starts, it will be too late to evacuate.

The Rolling Stones have officially postponed this weekend’s concert in New Orlean’s Superdome from Sunday to Monday due to Barry. There is the potential for the date to get moved again due to the lingering effects of Barry.

1 p.m. CDT: Residents and visitors in New Orleans only have a few more hours to make their final preparations ahead of Barry’s arrival. Officials have announced that everyone in the city needs to start sheltering in place by 8 p.m. CDT Friday.

Grocery stores in New Orleans are sold out of items such as food and bread as people flock to the stores to stock up ahead of Barry and the flooding that will linger in the wake of the storm.

Some flights scheduled at New Orleans Airport this weekend are already being canceled. Airlines are issuing travel advisories due to Barry. People planning to fly this weekend in and hour of the region should check with their airline before heading to the airport.

Additional reporting by AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer and National News Reporter Jonathan Petramala.

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