Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome speaks with reporters on July 12, 2019 following a meeting with state and other local officials about preparations for Tropical Storm Barry.

Tropical Storm Barry shifted slightly westward Friday afternoon on its way to hitting central Louisiana’s coast on Saturday.

Barry still is expected to develop into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall, most likely late Saturday morning. But whether or not the storm’s wind speeds reach hurricane status, rain is expected to be the real danger.

The most recent Friday afternoon National Hurricane Center impact prediction didn’t vary much from Friday morning’s forecast. Much of the state could get more than 10 inches of rain and some areas might have more than two feet during a 24-hour period.

As of 4 p.m., the storm was located 70 miles south-southeast of Morgan City and 110 miles west-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

In the region in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city, officials say they are much more prepared than they were in August 2016, when an unnamed storm dumped some 7 trillion gallons of water with little warning. The flood killed 13 people and caused more than $10 billion in property damage, and some area residents still are waiting for promised help from the federal government.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she certainly is more prepared than she was when the 2016 flood struck her home months before her election.

“When I left there that Saturday, I thought I was coming back Sunday,” she recalled Friday afternoon. “I didn’t get back until a year-and-a-half later.”

Broome and officials from neighboring Ascension and Livingston parishes don’t plan to call for mandatory evacuations. As of 5 p.m. Friday, they had not instituted curfews.

Officials throughout central and southwest Louisiana’s Acadiana region, near where the storm will land, are calling for voluntary evacuations, and several municipalities and parishes have instituted curfews for Friday night/Saturday morning.

New Orleans officials have been asking residents to shelter in place by 8 p.m., though a voluntary evacuation reportedly has been called for the city’s easternmost corner. Voluntary and mandatory evacuations have been called for several southeast Louisiana areas.

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has re-issued an emergency rule enabling local jurisdictions to control levee activity. Residents are urged to refrain from any unauthorized activities on levees.

AccuWeather predicts Barry will cause between $8 billion and $10 billion worth of damage and economic losses, based on expected flood damage over several states and storm surge. The estimate includes damage to homes and businesses, as well as their contents and cars, along with wage losses, farm and crop losses, contamination of drinking water wells, infrastructure damage, auxiliary business losses, and the lingering health effects of flooding and standing water, the company says.

Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.