Barry could cause up to $10B in storm damage, meteorologists predict

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People walk past Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter before landfall of Tropical Storm Barry from the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans, La., July 12, 2019. All state resources, including helicopters, aircraft, trailers, generators and dozens of state employees, will be on standby.

It could make landfall on Saturday on the Louisiana coast and bring up to 15 inches (38 cm) of rain to the central Gulf Coast, forecasters said.

Its rainbands are moving onshore in Louisiana as it inches northwest at 5 miles per hour, bringing a unsafe storm surge and possible tornadoes.

Tropical Storm Barry continues to move toward the Louisiana coast as forecasters expect it to make landfall as a hurricane.

The National Weather Service (NWS) earlier warned the Mississippi River could crest at 19ft or 20ft during the storm, but on Friday revised their estimate down to 17ft. In particular, a new surge barrier and gate that closes off the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal near the Lower 9th Ward has reduced the risk of flooding in an area long viewed as the city's Achilles' heel.

Barry was reportedly heading west-northwest across the northern Gulf of Mexico at 5 miles per hour on Friday.

US President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Barry bears down on New Orleans, as the southern city braces for extreme winds over the weekend. For the first time since their construction, all major floodgates on the Mississippi River are closed, he added.

A coastal storm surge into the mouth of the MS is expected to push its crest to 19ft in New Orleans, the highest level since 1950 and dangerously close to the top of the city's levees.

"We can say now that the rivers will certainly not overtop the levees anywhere on the Mississippi", Edwards said.

Weakening is expected after Barry moves inland.

If the storm becomes a hurricane, it would be the first of the Atlantic season, which runs from June to November.

According to Entergy Louisiana's outages map, more than 45,800 people have been affected by power outages. Looking ahead, tracking forecasts showed the storm moving toward Chicago, swelling the Mississippi River basin with water that must eventually flow south again.

Motiva Enterprises' 607,000 barrel per day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, the nation's largest, was monitoring the developing storm on Monday and preparing to implement its hurricane plan as needed, the company said in a statement. Up to 25-inches of rain is possible for some areas of Louisiana.

Water on the island had risen so high that some residents were clinging to rooftops by the time help arrived.

Barry's downpours could prove to be a severe test of the improvements made to New Orleans' flood defenses since Katrina devastated the city in 2005.

He warned that "a lot of rain is on the way" as Barry gathers "a big slough of moisture" which was predicted to hit from Saturday morning and last until the afternoon.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered in outlying coastal areas beyond the protection of levees in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes.

The National Hurricane Center said as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain could fall in parts of eastern Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, and the entire region could get as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters). Some airlines, including British Airways, have cancelled outbound flights from the city through Saturday.

The city's main sports arena, the Superdome, was turned into an emergency shelter during Katrina.