The New Orleans area continued to brace for a tropical weather system expected to dump at least three and maybe as much as 10 or more inches of rain on southeast Louisiana beginning Tuesday.

The system, which has not achieved a name status, is churning in the gulf, moving "erratically" to the northwest at about 9 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. And while the center of the storm is currently expected to make landfall somewhere in southwest Louisiana late Wednesday or Thursday, officials cautioned that the greatest threat lies to the north and east of the center.

That threat is significant rain: much of southeast Louisiana stretching into the Florida panhandle is expected to get 4 to 8 inches of rain, while some areas may get as much as 10 inches, the National Weather Service says.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and a parade of officials spoke to address storm preparations ahead of tropical weather churning toward Louisiana's coast on Tuesday.

"We're calling you into alert," Landrieu said in a press conference. "Not to panic, but to be personally responsible and to be ready."

Officials from the New Orleans City Council, Sewerage and Water Board, National Weather Service and RTA, among others, also spoke.

"Pray for the best and be prepared for the worst," said Council Member Jason Williams. "People of the city of New Orleans are better equipped and more prepared than any citizens of any city anywhere else in the country."

State and local officials across southeast Louisiana are monitoring the storm. In St. Tammany Parish, officials have set up sandbag distribution sites at parish offices on Koop Drive and public works barns on Florida St. in Covington, on Grantham College Road in Slidell, on La. 1090 in Pearl River and on Fish Hatchery Road in Lacombe. The city of Slidell had also opened sandbag distribution sites at Lee Street, the tennis courts in Olde Towne Slidell, John Slidell Park and the parking lot at the corner of Rue Rochelle and Independence Drive.

Those distribution sites will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday and then open at 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Monday, officials from Orleans and Jefferson parishes said they were closely monitoring developments. Jefferson Parish had stages several portable pump trucks near Lafitte, which is outside the levee system.

City of New Orleans Director of Homeland Security Aaron Miller said Monday that officials had checked with all the pump stations. A city-assisted evacuation was not expected, he added. 

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.