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Barry makes landfall as Gulf Coast residents take shelter

Tropical Storm Barry briefly became a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday as it crossed over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in Louisiana, where some residents have evacuated. For more on the unfolding situation in the region, André Moreau, anchor and managing editor for Louisiana Public Broadcasting's news magazine show, "The State We're In," joins Hari Sreenivasan from Baton Rouge.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Good evening and thanks for joining us. Barry brought its heavy rain to Louisiana today as it moved very slowly out of the Gulf of Mexico and onto land briefly becoming a hurricane before turning back into a tropical storm. The storm's winds reached 75 miles an hour, making it a Category 1 and the first named hurricane of 2019. It was downgraded to a tropical storm within hours as its wind speeds dropped after making landfall west of New Orleans. But it was the rain not the wind speeds that caused evacuations and preparations for days of possible flooding. Water flowed over the tops of some levees but as of the afternoon no levee breaches have been reported. This afternoon officials said the Mississippi River is now predicted to peak at seventeen point one feet on Monday below the 20 foot levee height. I also want to caution that both Governor John Bell Edwards continued to warn residents to stay home or go to shelters telling them the first hours are quote just the beginning. Forecasts show as much as 25 inches of rain from Berry could bring life threatening flooding across eastern Louisiana and Mississippi. Andre Moreau is anchor and managing editor for Louisiana Public Broadcasting statewide news magazine show the state we're in. He joins me now from Baton Rouge. We're chatting Saturday afternoon. What do we know about this storm right now.

  • André Moreau:

    Well we know that the storm has lived up to the forecast so far but that it's done it in its own sweet time. It's hours late but it did become a minimal hurricane at 75 miles an hour. Much of the storm though is still offshore. All of the huge brain making clouds are offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. So as it's coming in on shore making its landfall it's the drier part of the storm. But the real wet part of the storm and that's what people in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and Baton Rouge perhaps more so are so fearful of because their forecasts of rain you know the people are saying 10 to 20 inches up to two feet. And if that happens anywhere in a short amount of time you're going to be in trouble. And it's sort of like a horror show. Memory from the floods of 2016 when there were 25 inches of rain that fell in a day and a half and a lot of people have never gotten back in the homes that were destroyed from that time in Metro Baton Rouge.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So tell me about what happens in those first couple of days after the rain when all the tributaries soak that water up and then feed into rivers.

  • André Moreau:

    What happens is that the water just rises and it can inundate homes as it did in those floods of 2016. But as you saw in other hurricanes where floods have been the big story and that's what this big story for Barry would be it's the water it's not so much the wind and that's the fear but you know it's a matter of just you can't do anything to that water goes down and then the real trouble begins because you've got homes that have been soaked in water that's you know dangerous so it has to be cleaned out drywall removed. If the home is still one that can be saved and that's a process that takes a long long time. So that's something that people don't want to think about it. You know it's a horrible thing to think about. It's a reality in this part of the world and it's something that I think people are prepared for this time but are just hoping it doesn't get to that level. But but are ready for it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Speaking of those preparations is being how it's part of life there how many people are evacuating just to get out of harm's way. How many people are deciding to ride out the storm? I mean how do the local authorities deal with that?

  • André Moreau:

    Well they they look at the most disaster prone area. So there are two parishes that have been under mandatory evacuation. Plaquemines Parish which feeds down to the Mississippi Delta. It's the very last part of Louisiana which much of it is diminishing anyway. But that's Plaquemines Parish and then parts of Jefferson Parish. Other parishes are under voluntary evacuation so. So in terms of massive exodus evacuation you have not had that for this. But there are shelters set up in place in Alexandria Louisiana for example for people if they need to go there. So the state gets ready for this because it's gone through this drill so many times before and it knows the drill. And so we're doing what we know what to do.Hari Sreenivasan:

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Alright. Andre Moreau of Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Thanks so much.

  • André Moreau:

    Alright thank you.

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