A somber Gov. John Bel Edwards and weather experts said Sunday Tropical Storm Sally will turn into a slow-moving, Category 2 hurricane that could arrive with winds of up to 100 miles per hour, triggering power outages and huge amounts of rainfall.
"We have every reason to believe this storm presents a very significant threat to the people of southeast Louisiana," Edwards told reporters during a 40-minute briefing. "We need people to take this storm very seriously."
The governor also stressed that, unlike recent storms forecast that failed to deliver the punch predicted, residents should be not be lulled into thinking this one will fizzle.
"There may be some false sense of security," Edwards said. "This storm is almost certain to visit upon Louisiana all the impacts that we have discussed here today."
Ben Schott, a National Weather Service meteorologist in New Orleans, said soon-to-be Hurricane Sally could dump 15 inches of rain on the city of New Orleans and other areas could get 24-30 inches.
"It is all about the speed of it coming on shore," Schott said.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Morgan City to Ocean Springs, Miss.
The path of the storm has moved slightly west since Saturday, meaning the entire New Orleans metro area is covered.
Schott said that, aside from the possibility of 100 mph winds on the coast, gusts could reach 120 mph. He said winds of 60 mph can topple power lines and trees.
"We would assume there would be widespread power outages, structural damages," Schott said. "I do not believe we are going to be lucky this time."
State officials are assembling assets in southeast Louisiana, including high-water vehicles, sandbags, generators and pumps.
'"I feel like we are in pretty good shape," Edwards said of preparations.
He said he talked to President Donald Trump on Sunday morning about the track of the storm.
Gov John Bel Edwards letter to President Donald Trump, Sept. 13, 2020, requesting emergency declaration
The governor also sent a letter to the president asking for a federal declaration of emergency in advance of the storm's arrival late Monday or early Tuesday.
Around 2,500 utility line workers with Entergy and other companies are standing by, with up to 3,000 more possibly being called to Louisiana.
About 1,200 inmates have been evacuated from jails in Plaquemines, St . Bernard and Terrebonne parishes.
Unlike last year water levels in the Mississippi River are low, which is a plus.
State offices will be closed Monday in at least 17 parishes, including Orleans, Ascension, Assumption, Livingston, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Terrebonne and Washington.
Edwards said there are indications the storm will follow a path similar to Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
The fact the storm is expected to be slow moving – perhaps 3 mph or 5 mph at times – is also alarming.
"There is going to be a period of time when the storm takes 12 hours to move from Kenner to Hammond," Edwards said. "Think about how much rain is going to fall during that time period."
Louisiana can ill afford major damages from a tropical storm or second hurricane in less than three weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a State of Emergency as Tropical Storm Sally nears.
The Lake Charles area, and much of southwest Louisiana, is still reeling from Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that landed in Cameron Parish on Aug. 27.
A total of 28 people died during or after the storm.
About 82,000 power outages remain while about 5,100 members of the Louisiana National Guard are providing assistance.
In addition, about 13,000 evacuees are in hotels statewide and another 4,800 are hunkered down in hotels in Texas, unable to return home because of damages or the lack of power and or water.
Most of the evacuees in Louisiana are in New Orleans.
Edwards said he expects them to stay put, in part because there is a shortage of rooms statewide.
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The state Sunday reported 1,353 cases of the coronavirus over the past two days, including 33 more deaths.