Hurricane Barry made landfall in Louisiana on Saturday and weakened to a tropical storm after a westward shift that appeared to spare low-lying New Orleans from the massive flooding feared earlier this week. The National Hurricane Center, which hours earlier said Barry had become the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019, said the storm slowed as it came ashore near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (115 kph).
"Weakening is expected as Barry moves farther inland, and it is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression on Sunday," the NHC said in its latest advisory. The storm could still bring dangerous rainfall flooding and storm surge to coastal regions southwest of New Orleans and to Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
But the threat of major flooding from the historically high Mississippi River overtopping levees appeared to have passed. The river crested on Friday night at just under 17 feet (5.18 meters)in New Orleans, the National Weather Service said, much lower than a prediction of 20 feet (6.1 meters)earlier this week, which would have approached the height of the levees.
The river was expected to surge again on Monday at about 17 feet, up slightly because of the expected rains, the weather service said. The "lopsided" nature of the storm meant most of the rain was expected after landfall and its slow speed increased the risk of flooding, the weather service said.
Life-threatening, significant flash flooding and river flooding will become increasingly likely later on Saturday and overnight, especially across portions of south-central and southeast Louisiana into Mississippi, forecasters said.
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