State of emergency as Louisiana braces for storm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-48964553

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Media captionNew Orleans braces for tropical storm

President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana as a growing tropical storm nears landfall.

Storm Barry has been gathering speed over the Gulf of Mexico in recent days.

Officials say sustained wind speeds have grown to 50mph (80km/h) and may still reach hurricane strength by the time it makes landfall.

It is expected to bring a storm surge and heavy rainfall to the city of New Orleans – which has already seen thunderstorms and flash floods.

The National Weather Service warns that flooding from the slow-moving storm poses the greatest risk.

Between 10-20in (25-50cm) rain is forecast to hit the state, where the Mississippi River is already nearing flood levels.

The president’s declaration frees up wide-ranging federal resources which can be used to help in the emergency situation.

What is the latest with the storm?

The National Weather Service (NWS) say the storm is continuing to crawl at speeds of 5mph towards Louisiana.

Forecasters believe it will make landfall late on Friday or early Saturday, before weakening over the Lower Mississippi Valley later this weekend.

If sustained winds from the storm exceed 74mph, Storm Barry will be declared a hurricane and become the first of the 2019 Atlantic season.

How is Louisiana preparing?

Officials have ordered thousands of residents in some low-lying areas to evacuate.

Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, has not issued a city-wide evacuation order because it is not a category three hurricane or above.

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AFP

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Forecasters are warning about the potential of “life-threatening flooding”

Residents have been warned to prepare for the storm, by stocking up on drinking water and non-perishable food, as well as other emergency supplies.

President Trump’s declaration, made in advance of landfall, will make Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resources available.

He posted on Twitter that national and local officials were working closely together and urged people to prepare.

The NWS said on Friday morning that the Mississippi River levels are already at a depth of 16.5ft (5m) with crest levels of up to 19ft expected.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has maintained it is “extremely confident” in the 20-25ft levee system shielding New Orleans.

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Media captionTropical deluges underway as Storm Barry nears Louisiana

Governor John Bel Edwards described the incoming storm as “very severe” – citing National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warnings flooding could be “life-threatening”.

“This is going to be a major rain event across a huge portion of Louisiana,” he said on Thursday.

“Look, there are three ways that Louisiana floods: storm surge, high rivers and rain. We’re going to have all three.”

Mayor Cantrell has said the New Orleans’s anti-flood water pumps are working at “optimal capacity” as the storm nears, but warned it will not be enough.

She, and other city officials, asked people to bring in their rubbish bins and clear gardens and streets in order to prevent debris from choking street drains and gutters or becoming airborne “projectiles”.

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