Millions face flooding risk as storm strengthens in Gulf of Mexico


Powerful rains lashed parts of the Deep South on Thursday morning, packing winds just short of tropical storm force — with the potential to develop into a Category 1 hurricane by the end of the week, forecasters warned, reports the New York Post.

Flash flood watches are in effect from south-central Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle — affecting more than 4 million people — as the storm passes over the warm waters, CNN reported, according to the network’s meteorologist Haley Brink.

The storm packed maximum sustained winds of 30 mph Thursday — and if the winds increase to 39 mph, the system will officially become Tropical Storm Barry, the outlet reported.

By late Friday, the storm could likely develop into a Category 1 hurricane, according to the report.

But even before it becomes a tropical storm, it will slam the region with heavy rains, causing flash flooding that could dangerously raise the levels of the Mississippi River, according to the report.

Southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, in addition to the western Florida Panhandle, will take the greatest hit on Thursday, according to Brink.

A state of emergency has been declared in Louisiana.

“This is going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and heavy rainfall potentially impacting every part of the state,” Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted Wednesday. “No one should take this storm lightly. As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared a similar message in a video posted to Twitter.

“Now is the time to start getting prepared,” he said. “The state of Texas will be prepared. We want each and every one of you who lives in the Gulf Coast region to make sure that if this storm comes close to Texas and poses a danger, we want you to be prepared, we want you to be safe, we want you to protect your life and your property.”

Forecasters have said that the 2019 hurricane season, which began on June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30, is expected to be a normal one — with 12 to 14 tropical storms expected across the Atlantic Seaboard. Of those, five to seven are expected to become hurricanes.