Things were looking good Saturday night after a day under tropical winds and rains pummeled Louisiana. But Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed concern that people will go to bed thinking everything is okay when the heaviest rains are expected before the sun rises Sunday.
“We have a lot of people going to bed thinking the worst is behind them, when in fact, that’s not going to be the case,” Edwards said late Saturday at his second public briefing of the day on the storm.
Radar shows bands of heavy tropical showers are still miles offshore and are dropping 1-to-2 inches of rain per hour when they reach land. “We’re going to see more rain tonight than we have seen thus far today,” Edwards said.
National Guard, Louisiana State Police and other personnel are bracing for flash flooding between New Orleans and Lafayette during the dark hours of Sunday morning. A total of 12 people – all living outside the hurricane protection levees in coastal Terrebonne Parish – were rescued Saturday, but Edwards knew of no other search and rescue missions taking place.
President Donald Trump phoned Edwards Saturday evening and asked the governor to forward his best wishes to the state's residents. Edwards said he thanked the president for so quickly signing the disaster declaration that will ease access to federal relief.
The latest numbers from the Comite River at Joor Road show the expected crest at 31.5 feet, which is three feet lower than 2016 levels. That’s good news, compared with predictions earlier Saturday that the crest was going to be higher than ever before. In August 2016, the Comite overflowed its banks and pushed water back into bayous and canals leading to widespread flooding in the Baton Rouge area and contributing to flooding of Livingston and Ascension parish communities along the Amite River.
A search and rescue team from Texas is set up in Livingston Parish as this storm’s rain seems to be falling in the same area as it did in August 2016.
Twenty-seven shelters are opened across the state with 462 evacuees spending the night. Sixteen roads have been closed.
The storm shifted a bit to the west but still is expected to drop up to 20 inches of rainfall, Edwards said a couple of hours after Hurricane Barry made landfall early Saturday morning at Marsh Island on the Iberia Parish side of Vermilion Bay.
The storm lost strength over land, dropping back to a tropical storm during Edwards’ 1 p.m. press conference and later in the afternoon was downgraded to a tropical depression. Still plenty of rain continued falling across most of the state. Wind gusts could be heard inside the state's emergency operations center.
"While most of the rain right now is in the Gulf, we know that it will be coming ashore and impacting a large portion of the state," Edwards said. “It’s going to be a long several days for our state."
The rain that has already fallen is filling up rivers and bayous.
No Mississippi River levees have been overtopped, Edwards said. The Mississippi River is the one of that has levees and doesn’t pose a threat. But almost every other river in the state does, the governor said.
Flood waters have topped a "back levee" protecting Myrtle Grove in Plaquemines Parish from canals and marshes back of town. But that was expected and materials had been prepositioned to handle the overflow.
Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said about 16 roads in south Louisiana and 24 movable bridges have been closed by the weather. High water is covering La. Hwy. 1 in south Lafourche Parish, isolating Grand Isle. And DOTD is working to keep water off U.S. Hwy. 190, a major artery in St. Mary's Parish.
About 122,000 people were without power at 10 p.m. with nearly every customer in St. Mary, Iberia and Assumption parishes in the dark. Crews won’t be able to use bucket trucks to start fixing down transformers and wires until the winds drop below 30 miles per hour.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry dispatched its mobile pet shelter to the F.G. Clark Activity Center on Southern University’s campus, which is sheltering evacuees.
The mobile pet shelter can hold approximately 50 pets. It is a tractor trailer equipped with metal cages, generator, battery power and a cleaning station. It has an air ventilation system to provide proper air circulation and temperature for the pets. The LDAF has two mobile pet shelters.
Nearly 3,000 Louisiana National Guard soldiers remain deployed around the state and ready to assist in emergency response situations. And Louisiana State Police troopers are deployed throughout the state and in coastal regions patrolling evacuation routes for stalled vehicles and roadway issues. In addition, the state police is providing security at the shelters.
The Department of Corrections has assisted in evacuating 588 inmates from Plaquemines Parish and 216 inmates from St. Mary Parish. The department is now housing these inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary, Dixon Correctional Institute, and Elayn Hunt Correctional Center.
Officials said those seeking shelter can find options by texting LASHELTER to 898211 or by calling 211.