By Collin Eaton
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The remnants of the once mighty storm Barry, the first hurricane of the 2019 season, dumped dangerous amounts of rain as it crawled north through the United States on Monday after coming ashore west of New Orleans at the weekend.
Barry, now downgraded to a tropical depression, still packed winds of up to 25 mph and could drop 5 inches or more of rain on a water-logged Louisiana, forecaster Andrew Orrison of the National Weather Service said.
That brings the risk of dangerous flash floods from already bloated rivers across much of the gulf region and Mississippi Valley, he said.
“We’ll see the winds coming down as the day progresses,” he said. “But the big story is the rain. This is still capable of very heavy rains through the next 24 hours.”
Through Monday and Tuesday, the storm will bring 3-to-5 inches of rain with spots of 10-to-15 to eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and parts of Missouri and Mississippi, as it heads north toward Ohio, he said.
As of early Monday, about 50,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana were without electricity, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.us.
Barry, which made landfall on Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and then quickly weakened to a tropical storm, was expected to break up into a post-tropical depression by Monday afternoon, forecasters said.
Fears that Barry might devastate the low-lying city of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina did in 2005 were unfounded, but rain in the forecast could still cause dangerous flooding into Monday, meteorologists said.
The additional rainfall could cause life-threatening conditions, the NWS said in a bulletin.
New Orleans saw light rain on Sunday, and churches and several businesses were open, including some on Tchoupitoulas Street along the flooded Mississippi River. Streets in the city’s Garden District were quieter than usual but some joggers and dogwalkers ventured out.
A concert by the Rolling Stones scheduled for Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which served as an emergency shelter during Katrina, was postponed until Monday because of the weather forecast, the venue said.
Barry has shut in 73%, or 1.38 million barrels per day (bpd), of crude oil production in the U.S.-regulated areas of the Gulf of Mexico, officials said on Sunday.
(Reporting by Collin Eaton in New Orleans; additional reporting by Gabriella Borter and Rich McKay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)