Barry strengthened to a hurricane Saturday as itpushed ashore along the Louisiana coast west of New Orleans, bringing torrential downpours and the risk of "life-threatening" inland floods in Louisiana and Mississippi, the National Weather Service said.
Barry went ashorebefore noonSaturday, said Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who specializes in Atlantic basin hurricanes.It packed sustained 75 mph winds,just enough to qualify as the nation'sfirst hurricane this season, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The slow-moving Category 1 hurricane, which will steadily weakenas it pushes inland, is expected to treknorthward through the Mississippi Valley through Sunday night.
Forecasters said Barry could unload 10 to 20 inches of rain through Sunday across a swath of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as southwestern Mississippi, with pockets in Louisiana getting 25 inches.
Watch Live: Webcams show Barry's landfall in New Orleans and the Louisiana coast
NHCDirector Ken Graham warned slow-moving rain cells would create especially dangerous flooding conditions in southeastern Louisiana, as well as Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and parts of Tennessee into next week.
"When you put that much rain down in areas around Baton Rouge and Mississippi, those rivers and creeks are filling quickly," he said. Graham urged residents to heed local authoritiesand stay off the roads when the flooding begins.
That is just an amazing amount of moisture, he said on Facebook Live, pointing to a weather data board.That is off the chart.
That is a lot of rain: How will Barry compare to Louisiana's 2016 flooding?
Graham stressed that in the past three years, inland flooding has accounted for 83% of the deaths during tropical cyclones, half of those in vehicles.
The hurricane brings a tornado threat, too. The highest-risk area is on the east side of the storm, along the Mississippi coast, and Mobile Bay.
As the storm drew closer Saturday morning, the Coast Guard saidit was rescuing more than a dozen people stranded by flooding on a remote Louisiana islandthat has been shrinking for years.
Petty Officer Lexie Preston told the Associated Press some of the people were on rooftopson the Isle de Jean Charles, about 45 miles south of New Orleans. He said four people and a cat had been removed by helicopter anda boat was heading to the area to help get the rest of the people off the island.
Anthony Verdun chose to ride it out in his home in Isle de Jean Charles despite watching the water rise eight feet in 10 minutes near his raised house.
Verdun, noting his refrigerator was still stocked with a fresh catch of fish from Friday, said he waved off a Coast Guard helicopter Saturday morning that hovered above his house, one of the highest on the island.
"I gave them the all good," Verdun said via text message. "My son is in the (Coast Guard) and he told me how to signal so we signaled back, 'All clear.' "
Early Saturday, water spilledover a levee in Myrtle Grove, about 25 miles due south of New Orleans.Photos and video taken by Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser showed water spilling over a leveein Plaquemines Parish at Point Celeste pump station, just west of the Mississippi River.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told WVUE-TV anyone who remains south of Myrtle Grove should evacuate from the finger of low-lying, flood-prone land that follows the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
What about dogs?: Rescue dogs flown out of Louisiana ahead of Barry to avoid euthanasia. They're adoptable
More than 60,000people werewithout power as the hurricaneapproachedLouisianas south-central coast Saturday morning.Nearly a fourth of those outages were in coastal Terrebonne Parish. A number of other southern parishes were affected, including Jefferson Parish outside of New Orleans.
The threat to New Orleans diminished late Friday. Officials said the levee system would crest Monday at only 17 feet at the critical Carrollton gauge. Thatis about three feet lower than a previous forecast and two feet belowthe levee's height.
Gov. John Bel Edwards assured residents that thelevees were "stronger than they've ever been" and that the state was better prepared than ever.
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city 14 years ago, the governor said all floodgates were sealed in Hurricane Risk Reduction System. The city did not offer any sandbags, although some businesses did make them available.
Residents of the Big Easyhad beenurged to shelter in place in lieu of evacuation orders, which are normally issued only for Category 3 hurricanes.
Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Andrew J. Yawn, Leigh Guidry, Nick Siano, Lafayette Daily Advertiser; Greg Hilburn, Monroe News-Star; Associated Press