The Center Square
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested a federal emergency declaration in advance of an expected hurricane hitting the state Saturday morning.
“We don’t have to wait until the rain falls for the rivers to fill up because they’re already full,” Edwards said Thursday. “There are three ways Louisiana floods: Storm surge, high rivers and rain. We’re going to have all three.”
Tropical Storm Barry has turned slightly to the east since Wednesday and is now projected to make landfall in south-central Louisiana near Morgan City as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm is expected to dump 10 to 15 inches of rain on much of the state and possibly more in some areas.
The heaviest rainfall is expected Friday through Sunday morning, Edwards said. Due to the uncertainty of Barry’s path, there is a storm surge threat for all of south and southeast Louisiana.
The Mississippi River has been elevated for an unprecedented 258 days.
“This will be the first time that we’ve had a hurricane make landfall in Louisiana while the Mississippi River was at flood stage,” Edwards said, noting that other rivers around the state also are at high levels.
In a bit of good news, none of the Mississippi River levees in southeast Louisiana are expected to be overtopped, as was feared on Wednesday, though that forecast still could change. The risk of significant flooding throughout south and southeast Louisiana remains high.
“Whether it comes from rain or the river, water is water,” Edwards said. “We are encouraging everyone to take this very, very seriously.”
Edwards said he spoke with FEMA’s acting head Peter Gaynor Thursday morning and requested a federal emergency declaration. Voluntary or mandatory evacuations have been declared for parts of Calcasieu, East Feliciana, Jefferson, Lafourche, Vermilion and Plaquemines parishes and the city of Grand Isle, with more possible in the near future.
Up to 3,000 Louisiana National Guard members are authorized to mobilize, Major General Glenn Curtis said. Many already are assisting in levee operations and evacuations. State search-and-rescue vehicles have been positioned to assist in possible evacuations after the storm.
The Department of Transportation and Development has shifted its motorist assistance patrol into 24-hour operations, DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said. He said 110 buses to assist in evacuations will be put in place Thursday, and a contract has been activated that could provide up to 700 additional buses as needed.
Edwards and Wilson both urged motorists not to attempt to drive through standing water.
Information about road closures can be found at emergency.la.gov and 511la.org. Shelters are being opened throughout the state, and information about shelter availability can be obtained by calling 2-1-1, said Marketa Walters, head of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.