NEW ORLEANS — Barry rolled into the Louisiana coast Saturday, flooding highways, forcing people to scramble to rooftops and dumping heavy rain that could test the levees and pumps that were bolstered after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.
After briefly becoming a Category 1 hurricane, the system quickly weakened to a tropical storm as it made landfall near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, about 160 miles west of New Orleans, with its winds falling to 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
By late afternoon, New Orleans had been spared the storm’s worst effects, with sporadic light showers and gusty winds. But officials warned Barry could still cause disastrous flooding across a wide stretch of the Gulf Coast and drop up to 20 inches of rain today across a part of Louisiana including New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“This is just the beginning,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “It’s going to be a long several days for our state.”
None of the main levees on the Mississippi were breached, Edwards said. But video showed water overtopping a levee in Plaquemines Parish south of New Orleans.
In some places, residents continued to build defenses. Near the town of Jean Lafitte outside New Orleans, volunteers helped town employees sandbag a stretch of the two-lane state highway.
Many businesses were shut down or closed early in Baton Rouge, and winds were strong enough to rock large pickup trucks. Whitecaps were visible on the Mississippi.
Oil and gas operators evacuated hundreds of platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 70% of Gulf oil production and 56% of gas production were turned off Saturday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which compiles the numbers from industry reports.
The mood was sanguine in New Orleans, where light rain fell on mostly empty streets.
“Whatever is going to happen, is going to happen,” said Wayne Wilkinson, a New Orleans resident. “So I’m not paying too much attention to it as I probably should be.”