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Hurricane Head Fake? Why New Orleans May not be Out of the Woods Just Yet

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TLB.News | July 13, 2019

Throughout the week hydrologists and weather experts have been closely monitoring Mississippi River flood levels in New Orleans as Tropical Storm Barry encroaches on the Gulf Coast.

With the Mississippi River already cresting at record levels officials feared that a direct impact from Barry could cause waters to over-top levies in New Orleans resulting in catastrophic damage and leading to a loss of life.

Tropical Storm Berry formed in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week and is expected to make landfall well west of the Crescent City on the central Louisiana coast. The storm is projected to strengthen into a category 1 hurricane before it heads inland.

With New Orleans avoiding a direct hit from the storm and the Mississippi cresting at levels lower than initially feared, many are breathing a sigh of relief this morning.

However, according to this cone Barry, a slow moving rain-maker, is tracking North and will be almost directly over the Mississippi River dumping water for days. And where is all that water going to go? Obviously it will flow south toward the Gulf of Mexico and through New Orleans just before it reaches the mouth of the river.

NOLA is essentially a bowl that sits below sea level and levies are man made barriers that prevent water from overflowing uncontrollably.  Levies in New Orleans begin over-topping at a flood level of 20 feet and hydrologists predicted that due to storm surge river levels might breech 19 feet – way too close for comfort.

Reports this morning indicate that the storm surge in NOLA only reached about 17 feet and water levels are already beginning to go down.

However, if Barry continues to dump inches of rain directly over the Mississippi River basin for the next several days flood levels in New Orleans could still grow worse or at least fail to subside. TLB reached out to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service for New Orleans / Baton Rouge but has so far not received a reply.

This is definitely a situation to keep an eye on as New Orleans is not out of the woods just yet.

Update: TLB received the following reply from National Weather Service Forecaster Phil Grigsby:

The rains expected to fall over Louisiana will fall into rivers that do not flow into the Mississippi River.  The Mississippi is actually high ground, so the vast majority of the rivers and streams flow into either Lake Pontchartrain or into the Gulf of Mexico.  A small rise is expected on the Mississippi mainly due rain falling directly into the river.   The few rivers that locally flow into the river like the Buffalo River in Wilkinson County, MS are also taken into account.  

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