Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of tropical weather that could dump as much as 15 inches of rain in the state over the coming days.
Edwards issued the declaration Wednesday afternoon. It came after storms from a weather system centered in the Gulf of Mexico dumped an estimated 4 to 7 inches of rain on metropolitan New Orleans in a span of three hours Wednesday morning. That caused widespread flash flooding.
Forecasters say that system could become a tropical storm in the northern Gulf by Thursday night and a weak hurricane by Friday.
In addition to dumping heavy rains throughout the state, the system could push up Mississippi River levels, possibly overtopping some levees on the lower part of the river.
Garbage containers tilted on their sides and pieces of wood floated down rain-swollen streets in New Orleans. Water was up to the doors of many cars during the morning rush hour.
Once it becomes more intense, the weather system could push the already swollen Mississippi River precariously close to the tops of levees that protect New Orleans, forecasters said.
"There could be a considerable amount of overtopping of Mississippi River levees in Plaquemines Parish on both the east bank and the west bank," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Wednesday news conference.
New Orleans alreading flooding in the Bywater and the Tropical Depression hasn’t even hit pic.twitter.com/NTVfpXhL97
— Taylor McCrary (@T4McCrary) July 10, 2019
The parish is just southeast of New Orleans and includes many of the city's suburbs. But it's not just New Orleans that's at risk, the governor said. National Guard troops and high-water vehicles will be positioned all over the state, he said.
"The entire coast of Louisiana is at play in this storm, and we're talking about as much as 10 to 15 inches of rain over a 24-hour period that will start Friday so that is a short time period for such intense rain," Bel Edwards said.
The governor said he would declare a statewide emergency later Wednesday.
The low pressure area Wednesday was over water, south of the Florida Panhandle. It was expected to strengthen into a storm as it moved west through the Gulf's warm waters.
Lines of thunderstorms associated with the system on Wednesday extended far out in into the Gulf and battered New Orleans, were as much as 7 inches of rain hit the New Orleans metropolitan area over a three-hour period Wednesday morning, forecasters said.
It's expected to get much worse in the days ahead.
Parts of Louisiana could see up to 12 inches of rain by Monday, with heavier amounts possible in some spots, forecasters said.
Mississippi and Texas were also at risk of torrential rains.
The National Weather Service said New Orleans is protected to a river level of 20 feet, but it was forecast to rise above flood stage to 19 feet by Friday.