About 12 inches of rain is expected to fall in Acadiana between Wednesday and Sunday as the result of a tropical cyclone that forecasters predict will strengthen to a hurricane before making landfall.
Wednesday's rainfall — which caused street flooding and tornado warnings in New Orleans before reaching Acadiana — was from the outer fringe of the unorganized storm, according to Kent Kuyper, a senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.
"It's not terribly organized at this point, but the prediction is that it will be," Kuyper said. "It looks like it will slowly evolve as conditions become more favorable toward Friday for it to develop into a more organized storm."
Invest 92L became Potential Tropical Cyclone Two and is forecast to make landfall as Category 1 Hurricane Barry on Saturday evening in between Lake Charles and Lafayette, according to the National Hurricane Center. A potential tropical cyclone is a relatively new classification and is assigned to a system that isn't yet a depression or tropical storm.
While the storm's winds are expected to reach only Category 1 status, forecasters believe it will pack a punch in the form of massive rainfall and formidable storm surge.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Wednesday as rain drenched the southeastern region of the state.
The order sets in motion several sets of laws, such as limiting increases in gasoline prices, not normally enforced. The order shall remain in effect until Aug. 8 unless terminated sooner. Edwards said administration officials are looking at requesting a federal declaration, which opens avenues to disaster aid, prior to the rain coming ashore.
“This is going to be a very significant weather event," Edwards at a Wednesday morning briefing from the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge. "It would be, in and of itself, but if you look at the fact that we got the elevated Mississippi River and we’ve had more rainfall in Louisiana over the last several months than normal, you know that it makes it much harder to deal with events of this type."
Acadiana residents should expect about 12 inches of rainfall from Wednesday through Sunday, according to Kuyper.
Between 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected Thursday. Another 2 to 3 inches is forecast for Friday, and an additional 5 to 10 inches is predicted to fall between Saturday and Sunday.
Flooding should not be as widespread as the August 2016 storm, Kuyper said.
"There will be less amount over a longer period of time," he said. "But there will be wind damage. As the storm gets closer, you'll have tropical bands move in, and you'll have accelerated wind speeds."
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For now, the broad low pressure system is called Potential Tropical Cyclone 2 because the storminess just south of Pensacola has not yet formed into a tropical depression or storm. But thunderstorms spawned by the system caused sudden, widespread and in places severe street flooding in New Orleans and other parts of southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday morning.
The center of the storm, as of Wednesday afternoon, was located about 250 miles east-southeast of New Orleans, with top winds of 30 mph, and was moving west-southwest at 8 mph. It was expected to become a tropical depression Thursday morning, a tropical storm Thursday night and a hurricane on Friday.
Forecasters warned that the entire central Gulf Coast, including all of southern Louisiana, will see additional rainfall accumulations of between 6 and 12 inches near the coast and in inland areas through the weekend, with isolated maximum rainfall amounts of 18 inches.
It's something that has homeowners who flooded almost three years ago anxious as they make preparations.
"The fact of the matter is if mother nature dumps between 10 and 15 inches of rain over 24 hours we’re going to have flooding," Edwards said. "We will know much better in 24 hours, we believe, on what we can expect in terms of storm intensity. We’ll have a better idea of tracking and so forth."
Advocate Staff Writers Mark Schleifstein and Mark Ballard contributed to this report.