tropicalstormoutlook

10 p.m. forecast advisory Monday from the National Hurricane Center

National Weather Service

With a tropical system that is expected to bring heavy rains to south Louisiana hovering in the Gulf of Mexico, state and local officials began Monday to prepare for a foot of water or more in some areas.

The system, which is grinding slowly northward after passing over the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, doesn't have a well-defined center. Still, the potential for strong winds and torrential rain caused the National Hurricane Center on Monday to issue a tropical storm warning for the southeast Louisiana coast from the Rigolets to near Vermilion Bay and a tropical storm watch from that point west into Texas.

State emergency management officials and their counterparts in Orleans, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge and other parishes were preparing for heavy rains, which are expected to be about 3 to 6 inches in the New Orleans area.

Some areas could see as much as 15 inches in a worst-case scenario. Tides are also expected to be 2-4 feet above normal.

All of southeast Louisiana is under a flash flood watch.

Officials are also participating in daily briefings, as the storm's nature and path have been changing frequently, though officials did not expect the winds to rise above tropical storm level.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said that even though the storm doesn't have a name, it may still deliver a powerful punch.

"We learned from last year's floods that even unnamed storms can be devastating," he said in a statement.

Forecasters said the system had a high chance of developing into a depression or even Tropical Storm Cindy on Tuesday.

[LATEST: Tropical Storm Cindy has formed in the Gulf of Mexico]

State officials urged residents to make sure they have a plan in place to evacuate or to prepare for lengthy power outages. However, no city-assisted evacuations are planned, New Orleans officials said.

In Jefferson Parish, officials were staging portable pumping trucks in Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle, two low-lying communities that are outside the levee system. Lafitte officials had requested Hesco bags filled with sand and rocks, and officials were sending those too, according to Joe Valiente, the parish's emergency management director.

Can't see video below? Click here.

 

"This is going to be a heavy rain producer on Wednesday and Thursday," Valiente said. "Grand Isle and Lafitte need to pay particular attention to news outlets and monitor the progress of this system."

In East Baton Rouge Parish, where many residents are still recovering from devastating floods last August, leaders made sandbags available at three fire stations.

In New Orleans, officials made sure the pump stations were operating properly and that backup power was available.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East began operations to close the bypass barge gate at the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway because of projected tides, rain and wind. The East Closure Sector Gate remains open, but mariners were urged to use caution.

Satellite data on Monday showed the storm packed tropical-storm-force winds 150 miles northeast of the center. The storm did not yet have the rotation necessary to refer to it as a tropical storm, but it has the capability of bringing tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rain to land, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm is projected to make landfall sometime Wednesday, though the heavy rains will likely arrive before that. Then, over the next day or so, it is expected to move to the northwest before turning to the northeast, though the National Weather Service stressed that the storm's poor organization made such predictions less reliable than normal.

A second storm, named Bret, was upgraded to tropical storm status on Monday. That storm is moving to the northwest along the coast of Venezuela. It poses no threat to the United States.

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