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A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico could hit Louisiana as the year’s first hurricane. It will put New Orleans’ river levees to the test.

A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico could hit Louisiana as the year’s first hurricane. It will put New Orleans’ river levees to the test.

A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico is moving toward the Louisiana coast. The storm, named Barry, may develop into a Category 1 hurricane by the weekend. New Orleans was hit with National Hurricane Center If the storm makes landfall this weekend as a hurricane, it would be only the third time in the…


  • A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico is moving toward the Louisiana coast. The storm, named Barry, may develop into a Category 1 hurricane by the weekend.
  • New Orleans was hit with National Hurricane Center

    If the storm makes landfall this weekend as a hurricane, it would be only the third time in the last 168 years (since researchers started keeping track) that a hurricane hits Louisiana in July, meteorologist Eric Holthauswrote in the New Republic. Typically, August and September are peak hurricane season in the Gulf.

    Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwardsdeclared a state of emergencyin anticipation of the storm, which could dump as much as 20 inches (approximately 76 centimeters) of rain in the state over the coming days, according tothe NHC.

    The biggest test of Mississippi River levees since 1927

    The storm poses a significant threat to the city of New Orleans, since the Mississippi River, which snakes by the city, has beencontinuously floodingthe surrounding land since January. Currently,the water sits at a height of 16 feet.

    New Orleans has levees in place to keep the river from flooding its banks and swamping nearby neighborhoods. But those levees are only 20 feet high in some places. As of Wednesday, the river was forecast to crest at a near-record height of 19 or 20 feet by Friday afternoon. If that happens, it’d be the highest level the Mississippi has reached in New Orleanssince at least 1950, according to the NWS.

    Frank Conforto Jr. drives a University Medical Center truck with the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the background on Glavez Street in New Orleans after flooding from a storm, July 10, 2019.
    Matthew Hinton/AP

    In 2005, Hurricane Katrina — one of the deadliest storms in US history — killed over 1,800 people when storm surge levees along canals in New Orleans failed. The Mississippi River levees, which were built in 1927,stayed intact during that storm. But this week might prove to be their biggest test ever. Gov.Edwards warnedthat there could be “a considerable amount ofovertopping” of levees in Plaquemines Parish, a suburban district southeast of New Orleans.

    “Right now 19 feet is the official forecast, and we can manage that,” David Ramirez, the chief of water management for the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District,told Slateon Tuesday.

    But Ramirez added that his team is closely monitoring the lowest points of the levees.

    David Fox makes a call from his business on Poydras Street in New Orleans after flooding in New Orleans, July 10, 2019.
    Matthew Hinton/AP

    “The levees protect the city up to 20 feet, but 19 is close and doesn’t include waves splashing up and so on. It’s too close for comfort for us. And that surge could be more or could be less,” he said. “If things change and it gets higher, at some point, there’s only so much we can do.”

    We’re likely to see more frequent and wetter hurricanes

    This past year was thehottest on record for Earth’s oceansand the fourth warmest for the planet.

    As ocean temperatures continue to increase, we’ll likely see morecoastal floodingbecause of sea-level rise (since water, like most things, expands when heated) and more severe hurricanes. That’s because hurricanes’ wind speed is influenced by the temperature of the water below. A 1-degree Fahrenheit rise in ocean temperature can increase a storm’s wind speed by 15 to 20 miles per hour,according to Yale Climate Connections.

    Read More:The oceans are the hottest they’ve been since we started measuring — which means we should prepare for more disastrous flooding and storms

    Currently, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico areat near-record levels, Holthaus wrote.

    Frank Conforto Jr. walks in the parking lot of the University Medical Center with the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the background on Glavez Street in New Orleans after flooding from a storm, July 10, 2019.
    Matthew Hinton/AP

    What’s more, as the planet keeps warming, Earth’s atmosphere will be able to hold more moisture. That increases the likelihood of intense rainfall in already wet areas,according to Holthaus.

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