Storm Barry sweeps into Louisiana threatening days of heavy downpours

A huge storm forecasters warn is carrying "off the chart" amounts of moisture has made landfall on the US Gulf coast.

Tropical Storm Barry, which was downgraded from a category one hurricane as it came ashore at Intracoastal City, Louisiana, is causing downpours that could last for days in a test of flood-prevention efforts implemented after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 14 years ago.

The Coast Guard rescued more than a dozen people from the remote Isle de Jean Charles, south of New Orleans, where water rose so high that some residents clung to rooftops.

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Tropical Storm Barry hits the US
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Tropical Storm Barry hits the US
The conditions are likely to test flood-prevention efforts implemented after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 14 years ago.
Storm clouds gather above New Orleans (Matthew Hinton/AP)

The conditions are likely to test flood-prevention efforts implemented after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 14 years ago.

The sky is cloudy as over Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive as little flooding is reported in New Orleans, ahead of Tropical Storm Barry making landfall on Saturday, July 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
A man in a wheelchair makes his way down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter Saturday, July 13, 2019, in New Orleans, as Tropical Storm Barry nears landfall. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Clouds are seen over the Central Business District at dawn as Tropical Storm Barry approaches in New Orleans Saturday, July 13, 2019. (Max Becherer/The Advocate via AP)
Raghu Das crosses Canal Street on his way to work in the French Quarter Saturday, July 13, 2019, in New Orleans, as Tropical Storm Barry nears landfall. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Aimee Cutter the owner of Beach House restaurant walks through water surge from Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, La., ahead of Tropical Storm Barry, Saturday, July 13, 2019. Barry is expected to reach hurricane strength by the time its center reaches the Louisiana coast, expected before noon local time. The storm is expected to weaken after it moves inland. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
High winds blow across the Atchafalaya river in Morgan City, Louisiana ahead of Tropical Storm Barry Saturday, July 13,2019. - Tropical Storm Barry is the first tropical storm system of 2019 to make landfall in the United States and could dump up to two feet of rain along with strong winds and storm-surge flooding according to weather reports. (Photo by Seth HERALD / AFP) (Photo credit should read SETH HERALD/AFP/Getty Images)
A torn U.S. Flag dangles from a store front in Morgan City, Louisiana ahead of Tropical Storm Barry Saturday, July 13,2019. - Tropical Storm Barry is the first tropical storm system of 2019 to make landfall in the United States and could dump up to two feet of rain along with strong winds and storm-surge flooding according to weather reports. (Photo by Seth HERALD / AFP) (Photo credit should read SETH HERALD/AFP/Getty Images)
A truck blocks the path to a bridge in Morgan City, Louisiana ahead of Tropical Storm Barry Saturday, July 13,2019. - Tropical Storm Barry is the first tropical storm system of 2019 to make landfall in the United States the storm is around 10 miles offshore from Louisiana. Barry will dump up to two feet of rain along with strong winds and storm-surge flooding according to weather reports. (Photo by Seth HERALD / AFP) (Photo credit should read SETH HERALD/AFP/Getty Images)
The roof of the Solar's Apartments in Morgan City, La., is damaged by the winds of Tropical Storm Barry, Saturday, July 13, 2019. Nearly all businesses in Morgan City were shuttered as coastal Louisiana braced for the arrival of Tropical Storm Barry. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Martha Young, center, Patricia Plishka, left, and her husband Glen, right, battle the wind and rain from Hurricane Barry as it nears landfall Saturday, July 13, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Cilton Bordelon picks up a plant washed into shore as he wades through storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, La., as Hurricane Barry approaches Saturday, July 13, 2019. Barry had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane by Saturday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), the National Hurricane Center said. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Collen Schiller and Wesley Vinson wade through storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, La., Saturday, July 13, 2019. The waves are caused by the wind and storm surge from Hurricane Barry in the Gulf of Mexico. Mandeville is on the north shore of the lake while New Orleans is on the south shore. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Sheri Bordelon checks out the storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, La., Saturday, July 13, 2019. Mandeville is on the north shore of the lake while New Orleans is on the south shore. The waves are caused by the wind and storm surge from Hurricane Barry in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Audrey Ulfers stands on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain during Hurricane Barry in Mandeville, Louisiana, U.S. July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
A resident bikes down a flooded street after Hurricane Barry in Mandeville, Louisiana, U.S. July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Robyn Iacona-Hilbert walks through her flooded business after Hurricane Barry in Mandeville, Louisiana, U.S. July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Tourists walk through rain in the French Quarter caused by Hurricane Barry in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
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A levee in Plaquemines Parish, a finger of land extending deep into the Gulf of Mexico downstream from New Orleans, has already been topped by water.

Barry threatens disastrous flooding across a swath of the Gulf Coast.

But in New Orleans itself, officials remain confident its levees will hold firm, with most ranging in height from 20 to 25ft.

More than 70,000 customers are without power due to outages caused by the storm, including 66,830 in Louisiana and 3,140 in Mississippi.

National Hurricane Centre director Ken Graham, giving an update via Facebook Live, pointed to a computer screen showing a huge, swirling mess of airborne water.

He said: "That is just an amazing amount of moisture. That is off the chart."

Downpours are also lashing coastal Alabama and Mississippi. Parts of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama 200 miles from Barry's projected path, were flooded both by rain and surging water from the Gulf.

Barry is moving so slowly that it is likely heavy rain will continue throughout the weekend.

There are predictions of 10-20in through Sunday across a swath of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge, with some parts of the state possible getting 25in.

New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell thanked residents for staying off the streets and urged them to remain vigilant because the worst of the wind and rain is yet to arrive.

"Although you may not have seen rainfall as we have been discussing, it is coming our way," she said.

Looking ahead, tracking forecasts show the storm moving towards Chicago, swelling the Mississippi River basin with water that must eventually flow south again.

Governors have declared emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi, and authorities have taken unprecedented precautions in closing floodgates and raising the barriers around New Orleans.

Governor John Bel Edwards said it is the first time all floodgates have been sealed in the New Orleans-area Hurricane Risk Reduction System since Katrina.

But he still said he does not expect the Mississippi River to spill over the levees despite water levels already running high from spring rains and melting snow upstream.

Rescue crews and about 3,000 National Guard troops are posted around Louisiana with boats, high-water vehicles and helicopters.

President Donald Trump has declared a federal emergency for Louisiana, authorising federal agencies to co-ordinate relief efforts.

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