Tropical Rainstorm Barry weakening, still threatening heavy rain, flooding

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Two days after making landfall along the Louisiana coast as the first hurricane of the 2019 hurricane season, Barry weakened to a tropical rainstorm Monday as the remains of the former Category 1 storm drifted across the Midwest.

As of Tuesday morning, what was left of Barry was moving across Missouri as the system's bands of rain and thunderstorms impact areas including parts of Arkansas, west Tennessee, southeastern Missouri, western Kentucky and southern Illinois into Tuesday night.

Although Barry is a tropical rainstorm, people should not underestimate its impacts that will expand farther to the north into the mid-Mississippi and lower Ohio valleys. Barry will likely plague the region with localized flood dangers into Wednesday.

The much-anticipated storm weakened to a tropical depression Sunday afternoon as it continued to spread heavy rain inland, leaving a trail of flooding in its path.

Louisiana felt the brunt of Barry's rainfall with a total of 23.58 inches in the town of Ragley. AccuWeather meteorologists predicted an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches of rain could fall in the hardest-hit areas. Arkansas was also inundated by Barry's rains, with the top rain total occurring in Dierks, which was walloped with 16.59 inches of rain.

Barry Track Static

The lower Mississippi Valley was hit the hardest with heavy downpours this weekend, but Barry's impacts will extend farther inland into Wednesday.

As the storm moved north on Sunday, it continued to bring severe weather, tornadoes and downpours throughout Louisiana. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged residents to continue to monitor local media outlets for the latest weather information and important updates from local officials in your area.

Edwards held a news conference, where he said that he was "extremely grateful" that the storm had not caused the disastrous floods that had earlier been forecast. More than 90 people had been rescued in 11 parishes, but there were no reports of weather-related fatalities, Edwards said.

"This was a storm that could've played out very, very differently," Edwards said. "We leaned forward. We were prepared for the risks, the threats that were forecasted and we're thankful that the worst-case scenario did not happen. But understand here in Louisiana if nowhere else, that will not always be the case."

While the storm could have been worse, Edwards said over 90,000 customers remained without power on Sunday, and numerous state offices remained closed on Monday due to continued outages, including in Assumption, Iberia and St. Mary parishes. By Monday, the number of customers without power had dipped below 50,000.

Eleven shelters remain open with more than 100 people in them, he said. There are still 3,000 soldiers activated from the Louisiana National Guard, mostly in southern Louisiana, and they will start moving assets to northern Louisiana if needed, according to the governor.

Hurricane season is just underway, Edwards cautioned, and most hurricane activity occurs later in August and September. Since record-keeping began in 1851, only Hurricanes Bob in 1979, Danny in 1997 and Cindy in 2005 have made landfall on the Louisiana coast in July, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.

"Based on what we've experienced, I think we've learned, as we do in every single storm. And that will make us even better prepared for next time, and we do know that there will be a next time," Edwards said.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell passed along a similar message at a news conference on Sunday, saying the city was "beyond lucky" that rainfall in New Orleans did not reach the levels of early predictions. Prior to the storm's landfall, New Orleans rushed to prepare for the worst-case situation. An early forecast from the National Weather Service (NWS) projected the Mississippi River to crest at 20 feet Friday night into Saturday. Levees in New Orleans are able to protect the city from surges up to 20 feet, creating the possibility for a disaster.

"We were spared," Cantrell said at the news conference after the storm moved out, adding that the city was ready to assist nearby parishes hit harder.

Prior to the storm, New Orleans residents were told to shelter in place by 8 p.m. CDT Friday. Voluntary evacuations were issued across New Orleans for areas that were not protected by the levees.

"New Orleanians are glad they made preparations even though Barry dodged the area. It's always worth preparation, you never know, these storms get crazy sometimes," New Orleans resident Joe Anderson said.

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Around 10 a.m. CDT Saturday, Barry became the first hurricane of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season and the fourth hurricane to ever make landfall on the Louisiana coast in the month of July. The storm's initial landfall occurred when the center of circulation moved across Marsh Island, followed by its final landfall near Intracoastal City, located about 160 miles west of New Orleans.

As Barry moved inland, multiple reports emerged of levees overtopping in Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes, with mandatory evacuations being ordered by Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove for all areas along Louisiana Highway 315.

Trees and power lines were knocked down due to powerful winds and possible tornadoes. At the height of the storm, over 150,000 customers across Louisiana had lost power, according to PowerOutage.US.

Strong winds and tornadoes were not the only impacts. As AccuWeather forecasters cautioned, Barry unleashed heavy rain across the region.

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The heavy rainfall from Barry caused sewer systems to fail on Alabama's coasts, leading to more than 250,000 gallons (946,000 liters) in spills, local authorities told AP News.

More than half, roughly 180,000 gallons (680,000 liters), of the sewage was spilled into Baldwin County, located near the city of Mobile, Alabama. The Mobile Area Water and Sewer System reports that roughly 80,680 gallons (305,000 liters) of sewage leaked into three creeks in the city.

Just east of where Barry made landfall, a tide gauge at Amerada Pass measured a storm surge of nearly 7 feet on Saturday afternoon, with tide levels reaching 8.23 feet. This exceeded levels measured during Hurricane Ike of 7.81 feet from Sept. 12, 2008.

Storm surge began to inundate the coast of Louisiana as early as Friday morning as Barry gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Timmer reported from just outside of Chauvin, Louisiana, about an hour south of New Orleans.

Impacts from Barry were felt along the Florida Panhandle as well. On Friday, a law enforcement officer was treated for facial cuts after a powerful wave churned up by Barry broke the windshield of a boat near Destin, Florida, about 50 miles east of Pensacola, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office Twitter page.

Deadly rip currents continued to plague beaches along the Gulf into Sunday. ABC News reports that authorities made 40 water rescues in Panama City Beach on Sunday due to powerful rip currents off the Florida coast. One person died as a result of the strong rip currents, local officials report.

Additional reporting by Chaffin Mitchell, Adriana Navarro, Reed Timmer, Jonathan Petramala, Brian Lada and Kevin Byrne.