Sorority convention in New Orleans cut short by Barry

ABC Action News tracks tropical developments in the Atlantic

Barry packed maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100 km per hour) on Friday morning and was centered 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Barry, which was strengthening throughout the day Friday, was slated to become a potential Category 1 hurricane before making landfall along the Louisiana coast sometime overnight.

An SUV travels down Breakwater Drive in New Orleans near the Orleans Marina as water moves in from Lake Pontchartrain from the storm surge from Tropical Storm Barry.

About 800,000 people are under a hurricane warning along the Louisiana coast from south of Lafayette to south of New Orleans. New Orleans and parts of southwestern MS were expected to get the worst of it.

The city is particularly vulnerable to storms because it is "below sea level, protected by levees and pumping systems that remove rainwater, which can not drain naturally", the Environmental Protection Agency said in 2016 on its website, an entry moved to a web archive by the Trump administration.

The Mississippi is expected to crest Saturday at about 19 feet in New Orleans, where the levees protecting the city range from about 20 to 25 feet in height. "They're created to hold this pressure".

"[Barry] is smaller and the wind is not almost as strong or as concentrated as it was with Katrina, but it's still a high impact storm - and people need to realize this", said the hurricane forecaster. Popular tourist spots such as Panama City, Destin, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores are flying double red flags indicating the water is off limits.

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"There are three ways that Louisiana can flood: storm surge, high rivers and rain", Edwards said.

The city, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is now under a tropical storm warning.

Tanya Gulliver-Garcia, of New Orleans' Broadmoor neighborhood, had a planned trip to NY, with a flight out Friday evening. He said authorities do not expect the river to spill over its levees, but cautioned that a change in the storm's direction or intensity could alter that.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana, and the region's oil production was cut in half as energy companies evacuated offshore drilling facilities. Many heeded evacuation orders affecting 10,000 people in Plaquemines Parish, leaving communities largely empty by Thursday afternoon.

Katrina caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans 14 years ago and was blamed for more than 1,800 deaths in Louisiana and other states, by some estimates. But Mayor LaToya Cantrell said 48 hours of heavy downpours could overwhelm pumps created to purge streets and storm drains of excess water.

Scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent storms and floods, but without extensive study they can not directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.

The biggest worry has been the flooding, officials said. Throughout the city, motorists left cars parked on the raised median strips of roadways hoping the extra elevation would protect them from flood damage. "We're going to have all three".

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