Tropical Storm Barry Threatens New Orleans With Record-Breaking Floods

The Mississippi River, which is usually at 6 to 8 feet in the middle of the summer, is now at 16 feet.

Sandbags line the streets of New Orleans.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

The Mississippi River, which is usually at 6 to 8 feet in the middle of the summer, is now at 16 feet.

The streets in the French Quarter in New Orleans look more like a system of rivers as the flooded city braces for the first hurricane of the season.

Sandbags were laid while thousands of residents evacuated the city on Thursday. Tropical Storm Barry threatens to blow ashore with violent weather that will test the city’s levees to the max.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared an emergency earlier in the week as the storm kicked off in the Gulf of Mexico. According to CNN, Edwards warned that the storm’s ruinous winds could wreak havoc on the Mississippi River.

“There are three ways that Louisiana can flood: storm surge, high rivers and rain,” Edwards said. “We’re going to have all three.”

The National Guard and rescue crews readied themselves around the state of Louisiana.

Barry could potentially have winds of about 75 mph, which would just tip the scales into hurricane territory, making it a Category 1 storm, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service said it expects the Mississippi River to rise to 19 feet by Saturday morning. Water levels in the river are currently at 16 feet and rising. The city is protected by levees that go up 20 to 25 feet high. Authorities do not believe the water will breach the levees, but warn that it’s dangerously close.

The mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, said the pumping system that drains the streets is functioning for now, but the water levels are rising quickly and they won’t be able to hold out.

“We cannot pump our way out of the water levels that are expected to hit the city of New Orleans,” she warned.

Tropical Storm Barry is expected to bring more than a foot-and-a-half of rain in the form of storms that could go on for hours while the storm passes over downtown New Orleans. The city has a population of nearly 1.3 million people.

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States of emergency have been declared in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and St. Charles parishes. Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish made evacuation mandatory.

The city of New Orleans has declared a state of emergency, but has not issued mandatory or voluntary evacuations, Cantrell said. Historically evacuations aren’t looked at until storms are classified as Category 3.

Residents are encouraged to store at least 72 hours’ worth of food, water, and medication for everyone in the home, including pets.

“This is going to be a major weather event for a huge portion of the state,” Edwards told ABC News.