Floodgates, mega-shelters, and the National Guard: How Louisiana is preparing for Tropical Storm Barry

NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped a photo of Tropical Storm Barry from aboard the International Space Station on July 11, 2019. NASA/Christina Koch
  • Tropical Storm Barry is expected to make landfall in Louisiana this morning as a Category 1 hurricane.
  • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency, as has President Donald Trump.
  • The state has rushed to prepare emergency services for the storm.
  • Read more on Business Insider.

Tropical Storm Barry is expected to make landfall in Louisiana this morning as a Category 1 hurricane, testing emergency systems across the state. It has already pelted the state with heavy rain and left more than 46,000 people without power.

As the eye of the storm nears, the State of Louisiana is putting all hands on deck for emergency preparations.

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency, since the state is expected to see betwee 10 and 20 inches of rainfall, with up to 25 inches in a few areas.

“Nobody should take this storm lightly just because it’s supposed to be a Category 1 when it makes landfall,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said, according to CBS news. “The real danger in this storm was never about the wind anyway. It’s always been about the rain.”

All floodgates in New Orleans’ levee system have been sealed, though the levees along the Mississippi River are expected to be put to the test: the river level could reach 20 feet, the same height as the lowest parts of the levees that protect the city.

Gov. Edwards has warned that there could be “a considerable amount of overtopping” of levees in Plaquemines Parish, a suburban district southeast of New Orleans.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency in Louisiana, giving the state access to federal resources, but has since moved on to tweeting about other topics such as his golf course. The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can now start potentially life-saving coordination efforts, according to Nola News. In addition to FEMA personnel, 3,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to the area to help.

In Alexandria, Louisiana, a mega shelter is set up to receive 2,000 people and their pets, transported there by the State of Louisiana, according to local news station KALB. The cots are reserved for people with certain medical needs, such as being on dialysis, having diabetes, being on a feeding tube, or needing another kind of care. People from search and rescue will also be brought to the shelter.

Those who don’t meet that criteria will be able to shelter in a local shelter in their parish. “They can contact their Office of Emergency Preparedness director in their parish or call 211 to get a list of the shelters that are actually open,” the Department of Child and Family Services lead area manager Daniel Doyle told KALB’s Anna Denton. Anyone who leaves behind pets will be prosecuted, authorities said.

Many parishes across the state have already been ordered to evacuate ahead of Barry’s landfall, and even residents of places that were not called to evacuate – like New Orleans -have packed up and left before the storm.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also closely monitoring the storm.

“We are preparing facilities and equipment to withstand storm damage along the projected storm path so we can quickly resume disaster relief operations after it passes,” it said in a statement. The FAA told travellers to check for flight cancellations and warned drone users to avoid flying in the area.

In Texas, a group called Disaster Rescue Response Specialist is preparing to help out in smaller Louisiana cities that might not have as many resources to deal with the storm. The volunteers are returning a favour from a Louisiana group called the Cajun Navy, which helped citizens during Hurricane Harvey, Houston Public Media’s Travis Bubenik reports.

The city of Houston is also gathering donations to be sent to those impacted by Barry.