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State officials filed evacuation notices across the state, while others have been warned to ready emergency shelters as Barry turns from storm to hurricane.
A state of emergency has been declared in New Orleans after reports that tropical storm Barry would touch down Friday night or early Saturday, triggering memories of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The storm is expected to grow to hurricane proportions over the course of Friday, just before reaching the Louisiana coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
During a Thursday news conference, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said, “The more information we get, the more concerned we are. It’s going to be an extreme rain event.”
Scientists say that climate change is causing higher-than-normal air and ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, setting Barry up to be potentially catostrophic for Louisiana because it will dump higher-than-normal amounts of rain over a shorter period of time.
“The whole background of the atmosphere has changed since the 1800s,” meteorologist Jeff Berardelli tells Time. “The atmosphere is like a sponge: because we have a bigger sponge it can hold more moisture.” That excess moisture is predicted to produce 20 inches of rainfall and flash flooding as Barry hits the coast.
Evacuation orders have been made by officials across the southern state, while others have been warned to ready emergency shelters.
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center said, “Flash flooding and river flooding will become increasingly likely … some of which may be significant.”
This year has been the wettest 12-month period recorded since weather-recording began 125 years ago, the NOA reported, noting that 2019 has had an average of 19-inch-precipitation.
The steady downpour this season has left the Mississippi River, which runs through New Orleans, susceptible to flooding.