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Flooding, rains pound New Orleans ahead of potential hurricane

Thursday, July 11, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) — Tropical storm Barry barrelled toward rain-soaked New Orleans Thursday as the city hunkered down for an ordeal that evoked fearful memories of 2005's deadly Hurricane Katrina.  

The system, which has already caused major flooding in the low-lying city, is expected to strengthen and "become a hurricane late Friday or early Saturday," according to the US National Hurricane Center.

With Barry just 95 miles (152 kilometres) from the mouth of the Mississippi River, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and two parishes called for mandatory evacuations for portions of their jurisdiction.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell warned her city's residents on Twitter Thursday to "review your plans, supply kit and stay updated with the latest forecasts."

"The centre of Barry will be near the central or south-eastern coast of Louisiana Friday night or Saturday," the NHC predicted in its 1500 GMT bulletin Thursday, forecasting additional strengthening "during the next day or two."

Not only does the region face major flooding, but also the prospect of a swollen Mississippi River breeching the top of levees.

An official with the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans said levees south of the city were of concern, but that there appeared to be little risk for the city itself, according to CBS News.

Yesterday, officials said the 118 pumps spread throughout the city were operating at "optimum capacity".

In 2005, Katrina — the costliest and deadliest hurricane in US history — submerged some 80 per cent of the city as New Orlean's flood defences gave way.

Best remembered for the devastation wreaked in New Orleans, Katrina also pounded other parts of the southern state of Louisiana as well as Mississippi and Alabama, leading to some 1,800 deaths and inflicting more than $150 billion worth of damage.