Barry Is First Hurricane of the Season… Just a Taste of What’s Ahead

Well, it’s started again. The first hurricane of the season has struck. And it’s a near certainly that we’ll see plenty more of these storms over the next several months.

Hurricane Barry made landfall on Saturday near Intercoastal City, Louisiana. The Category 1 storm came with 70 mile-per-hour winds. And a brutal storm surge.

It was downgraded to a tropical storm shortly thereafter. And eventually to a tropical depression. But anyone who has been in a tropical storm knows it’s no picnic.

Especially when it’s a slow moving system. Like this one was. It dumped 10-20 inches of rain on Louisiana and Mississippi. And created massive flooding and power outages.

Evacuations, Catastrophic Flooding & Rescues

President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency for Louisiana. Even before Barry made landfall. That announcement authorized federal disaster relief measures to begin.

Tens of thousands of people in the parishes of Terrebonne and Plaquemines were asked to evacuate. That was after levees were overtopped by water. Winds shattered windows in homes. And peeled back roofs and flattened trees.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a dozen people from Isle de Jean Charles Saturday. High water made the only road to the island impassable. Some residents even clung to rooftops.

In one case, six motorists in New Orleans were stranded in a restaurant parking lot upwards of 6 hours by floodwaters submerging the roads.

Power Outages Follow

All flights in and out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport were cancelled Saturday. As were a majority of flights at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.

More than 140,000 utility customers in Louisiana lost power. As did more than 4,000 in Mississippi.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island in Alabama. Parts of it were flooded by both rain and surging water from the Gulf. Overall, winds and rain negatively affected some 3 million people.

Ken Graham is the National Hurricane Center director. “That is just an incredible amount of moisture,” he said. “That is off the chart.”

The “New Normal” for Louisiana

As we’ve seen in the past, New Orleans is especially vulnerable to hurricanes. That’s due to its low elevation. Only one-half of the city is above sea level. And unfortunately, the consistent storms have given residents a “new normal.”

Having a river that is staying high, even through summer means that it won’t take much to push the area into a state of crisis.

So these days, even a summer rainstorm can cause problematic flooding for residents.

As it is, Hurricane Barry in Louisiana was escalated by a “triple whammy.“ It was heightened by an already flooded Mississippi River meeting a storm surge of water coming from the south. And also by the tropical downpour Barry brought.

Luckily Barry didn’t turn out to be as bad as it could have been. But it outlined to residents that in the perilous state the area is currently in, it doesn’t even have to be a ‘big one’ to cause massive troubles.

Unprepared Residents Scramble

Anytime a hurricane heads towards New Orleans, people start thinking about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that came from it. Perhaps it was these memories that sparked last-minute preparations when Barry came calling.

There were long lines at gas stations as people filled up their tanks. They wanted to be ready if they needed to evacuate in a hurry.

At stores, people were stockpiling canned foods and water. Plus gasoline cans, mosquito repellent and much more. Not surprisingly, shelves emptied quickly.

“It’s slim pickings,” one longtime New Orleans resident said.

90-Plus Need Rescuing

Even after Barry weakened over land, high risk of flooding still remained. Rivers were already close to overflowing from spring rains. People were urged to stay indoors as much as possible.

Peter Gaynor is the acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said that 90 percent of tropical cyclone deaths come from people trying to drive through floodwaters.

Overall, 93 people in Louisiana needed to be rescued from the flooding. Concerts and conventions were cancelled or cut short.

Louisiana’s National Guard deployed approximately 3,000 soldiers around the state. With offshore rigs and platforms evacuated, there was a 70 percent drop in oil production.

Staying Prepared

USA Today recommends stocking a home with the following supplies when extreme weather is heading your way:

  • Several clean containers for water. Large enough for a three to five-day supply.
  • A three to five-day supply of nonperishable food.
  • A first-aid kit.
  • A battery-powered radio. Plus flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Sleeping bags or extra blankets.
  • Water-purifying supplies. Such as chlorine or iodine tablets. Or unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach.
  • Prescription medicines and special medical needs.
  • Disposable cleaning cloths. Such as baby wipes for the whole family to use in case bathing facilities are not available.
  • Personal hygiene items. Including soap, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, etc.
  • An emergency kit for your car. Including food, flares, cables and maps. As well as tools, a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher.

It’s just a matter of time before extreme weather affects us this summer. But as always, the best response is to be prepared.

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