Acadiana could be spared from the worst of what is now Tropical Storm Barry if it remains on its current path, although it's still too soon to know where the storm, which is predicted to become a low-end hurricane, will come ashore this weekend.

As of Thursday afternoon, the system was moving west at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. It was expected to turn northwest on Friday and potentially become a hurricane late Friday or early Saturday.

Thursday's forecast predicted the storm would make landfall Saturday morning between Lafayette and Morgan City where it could dump upwards of 20 inches of rain across southeast Louisiana.

Rainfall counts are now predicted to be 6 to 12 inches in Acadiana if the current forecast track is accurate, but experts emphasized Thursday their relatively low confidence in the current predictions.

"If it's going east of you, you're probably looking at 3 to 6 inches," said Todd Mogged, observation program leader for the National Weather Service in Lake Charles. "Those amounts will be even less if the thing shifts even further east. You'll still be getting some pretty good winds if this gets up to a hurricane."

A voluntary evacuation is in effect for some residents in Vermilion and Acadia parishes.

The evacuation notice applies for those living in low-lying areas or areas known to flood in Vermilion Parish and for those in low-lying areas south of La. 92 in Acadia Parish. No shelters have been set up at this time.

It's been difficult for forecasters to predict a path for the unorganized system.

"It's really hard to tell," Mogged said. "We don't have a surface low yet to plug into the models, and until we have that, it's just a guesstimate. Nothing’s changed as far as the hazards associated with this."

Watches and warnings

The following are in effect as of Thursday afternoon:

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the mouth of the Pearl River to Morgan City. Tropical storm conditions are possible Friday.

A storm surge warning is in effect for the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Shell Beach. Life-threatening inundation is possible Friday.

A storm surge watch is in effect for Shell Beach to the Mississippi/Alabama border and from the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Intracoastal City. There's a possibility of inundation Friday and Saturday.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the mouth of the Mississippi River to Cameron. Hurricane conditions are possible Friday and Saturday.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for east of the mouth of the Pearl River to the Mississippi/Alabama border and for Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas including metropolitan New Orleans. Tropical storm conditions are possible Friday and Saturday.

Storm preparations

Local leaders have been preparing for heavy rains and wind damage from the tropical storm that's predicted to strengthen to a hurricane before making landfall by the week's end.

Storm preparations in Lafayette Parish have included everything from emergency meetings and calling for extra utility workers to clearing debris from coulees and pumping water from retention ponds.

Utility crews from Florida are expected to arrive in Lafayette Friday to help with power outages that may occur in the city and surrounding areas.

About 41 people from Tallahassee and 17 people from Gainesville will assist Lafayette Utilities System crews through the weekend, according to LUS spokesman Alex Antonowitsch. They'll also provide assistance to small communities such as Abbeville, Rayne, Kaplan and St. Martinville.

"Because we're kind of a large organization and we've been through this before with larger storms, we have systems in place to assist the smaller communities in their coordination as well," Antonowitsch said.

Craig Stansbury, director of homeland security and emergency preparedness in Lafayette Parish, has been meeting twice daily with local elected officials, fire departments, law enforcement agencies, military forces, school officials and nonprofits to make preparations based on the latest weather forecast. 

"In 2016, we weren't able to make preparations with the vehicles, with the manpower ahead of time like we are doing now," he said Wednesday. "We were actually getting that equipment and calling people in during the event. This time, we're able to get all of that ahead of time ready on standby."

Acadiana Business Today: Latest tropical storm update shifts path east, which could mean less rain for Acadiana; Steps taken to lower Vermilion River, bayou, swamp levels before tropical rainfall

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