Barry, now a tropical depression, soaks much of Louisiana while sparing New Orleans

Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

NEW ORLEANS -- Barry continued to soak Louisiana and Mississippi as it weakened to a tropical depression Sunday over Northwestern Louisiana. While the low-lying city of New Orleans appeared to have dodged a catastrophic deluge, the National Hurricane Center warned of tornadoes, gale-force winds and "dangerous, life-threatening flooding."

"I, for one, am glad the forecasted rains and flooding did not materialize," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said during an evening media briefing in Baton Rouge.

"This was a storm, obviously, that could have played out very, very differently. We're thankful that the worst-case scenario did not happen, but we understand here in Louisiana, if nowhere else, that will not always be the case."

After fears that heavy rainfall would inundate the already swollen Mississippi River, submerging New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said it was clear the historic city would be spared.

"We absolutely made it through the storm," she said at a Sunday afternoon press briefing. "Beyond lucky ... . It seemed as those bands moved closer to New Orleans, they seemed to just go around us."

Although there was relief the storm had not wreaked more damage, the ordeal was a reminder of the vulnerability of New Orleans, half of which is below sea level and reliant on an elaborate system of levees, flood walls, pumps and catch basins.

"It's always good to dodge a bullet, but it doesn't feel good to know you've been shot at," said Andy Horowitz, an assistant professor of history at Tulane University who is working on a history of Hurricane Katrina.

Though nobody knows better than New Orleans residents the threat posed by climate change, Horowitz said, the predicament was not unique to New Orleans, but to the entire Louisiana coast -- as well as any coastal region that faces the challenges of a rising sea level and larger and more frequent hurricanes.

"It's possible for us to be thankful that Barry turned out largely to be much ado about nothing," he said. "But that doesn't change the fact that there could be another hurricane next week. And so, we go to bed tonight both thankful that everything was fine and also keenly aware that everything is not fine."

Across the state, search and rescue teams saved more than 90 people across 11 parishes, Edwards said.


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