/Dangerous Tropical Storm Barry nears Louisiana, mandatory evacuations ordered

Dangerous Tropical Storm Barry nears Louisiana, mandatory evacuations ordered

Tropical Storm Barry formed in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday as the dangerous storm nears the coast, threatening to bring heavy rain, flash flooding and storm surge.

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Tropical storm conditions are expected in Louisiana by Friday afternoon with deteriorating conditions Friday night into Saturday along the Gulf Coast. Tornadoes will also be possible Thursday night and Friday across Louisiana and Mississippi as the storm comes closer to shore.

The storm may strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall Saturday morning along the central Louisiana coast, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday.

“This is going to be a major weather event for a huge portion of the state,” the governor warned.

PHOTO: This satellite image obtained from NOAA/RAMMB, shows tropical storm Barry in the Gulf of Mexico, on July 11, 2019, at 11:40am local time.NOAA via AFP/Getty Images

This satellite image obtained from NOAA/RAMMB, shows tropical storm Barry in the Gulf of Mexico, on July 11, 2019, at 11:40am local time.

PHOTO: Tracking Barry: Projected PathABC News

Tracking Barry: Projected Path

Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish and Grand Isle are already under mandatory evacuations as a hurricane watch takes effect in the state. In Lafitte, Louisiana, residents rushed to fill up sandbags.

PHOTO: Kerry Warren works to get sand bags ready for flood prevention ahead of a tropical system in Lafitte, La., July 11, 2019.Dan Anderson/EPA via Shutterstock

Kerry Warren works to get sand bags ready for flood prevention ahead of a tropical system in Lafitte, La., July 11, 2019.

Heavy rains already inundated New Orleans on Wednesday, flooding streets and homes and leaving drivers stranded. As much as 9 inches of rain fell in the city, with more to come.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell declared a state of emergency in the city, but the city has not issued evacuation orders; Cantrell said Thursday, “sheltering in place is our strategy.”

PHOTO: A Tulane University building floods in New Orleans, July 10, 2019.David Mora/Handout via Reuters

A Tulane University building floods in New Orleans, July 10, 2019.

PHOTO: A woman stands photographing the scene in a flooded street in New Orleans, July 10, 2019.Ryan Pasternak/Handout via Reuters

A woman stands photographing the scene in a flooded street in New Orleans, July 10, 2019.

Residents are encouraged to store 72 hours’ worth of food, water and medication for everyone in the home, including pets.

New Orleans Fire Department officials urged residents to pack emergency items in the event of a last-minute evacuation.

“We have to be prepared for all impacts,” the mayor said.

PHOTO: People cope with the aftermath of severe weather in the Broadmoor neighborhood in New Orleans, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.Nick Reimann/The Advocate via AP

People cope with the aftermath of severe weather in the Broadmoor neighborhood in New Orleans, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

Immigration enforcement has been suspended through the weekend in Louisiana and Mississippi areas impacted by the storm, New Orleans officials said.

“The city of New Orleans, our residents, should not be affected by ICE at all,” the mayor said. “We want them to be protected, we want them to be safe.”

PHOTO: Eric Ehlenberger pauses as he goes through his damaged home in New Orleans on July 10, 2019, following a storm that swamped the city and paralyzed traffic.Matthew Hinton/AP

Eric Ehlenberger pauses as he goes through his damaged home in New Orleans on July 10, 2019, following a storm that swamped the city and paralyzed traffic.

Even if Barry doesn’t strengthen to a hurricane, the main concern is how much water the storm is forecast to bring, from the heavy rain to storm surge.

As much as 20 inches of rain is possible, especially in southern Louisiana, and because the storm is especially slow-moving, the rain will extend inland, flooding the Mississippi River Valley.

PHOTO: Tropical Rain Forecast: Through the WeekendABC News

Tropical Rain Forecast: Through the Weekend

Storm surge warnings have been issued for the southeast Louisiana coast, where life-threatening inundation could reach 3 to 6 feet from the mouth of Atchafalaya River to Shell Beach.

A storm surge watch was issued elsewhere along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, where the surge may reach 4 feet in some areas.

PHOTO: Barry: Storm SurgeABC News

Barry: Storm Surge

The Mississippi River in New Orleans is expected to crest at 19 feet, and the levees in New Orleans are 20 to 25 feet — so this is good news for the city, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told ABC News.

But as the forecast may still change, this will be a major test of the city’s levee systems.

Gov. Edwards has requested a federal emergency declaration.

ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs, Brandon Baur and Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

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