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Hurricane Barry left its mark, but could have been worse

Hurricane Barry flooding near Myrtle Grove back levee in Louisiana. Image Tweeted July 15, 2019. Photo: Shawn Wilson/Secretary, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development

Despite streets still under water, Barry spared the Gulf Coast from a worse fate over the weekend than what forecasters thought might happen. The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday, July 13 near Intracoastal City, Louisiana. It quickly weakened into a tropical storm, but has been inundating parts of the South ever since. Even as a much weaker tropical depression today, July 15, Barry continues to dump heavy rain in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and the lower Ohio Valley, prompting ongoing and new flooding concerns.

Fears of devastating storm surges and widespread major flooding didn’t pan out, overall, and the biggest storm surges didn’t happen in the highly populated areas like New Orleans. However, higher-than-expected surges of up to seven feet were reported in other areas. Also, most meteorologists didn’t believe the bulk of Barry’s moisture would stay over the Gulf of Mexico as long as it did. By the time it moved inland, the storm had weakened enough to keep rainfall totals down.

“Unlike Hurricane Harvey, which was an over-performer, this storm was a bit of an under-performer,” said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen. As for the flooding, Hennen said Barry was “a very strange hurricane…I think the strangest I have ever covered.”

SONAR Critical Events: Weather alert for Tropical Depression Barry on June 15, 2019.

The flooding threat isn’t over, however. The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting Barry will drop another three to five inches of additional rain today in central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, with pockets of up to eight inches. The NWS has issued Flash Flood Watches across these areas.

“Dangerous flash flooding is likely across this area into this afternoon,” the National Hurricane Center posted this morning.

Isolated tornadoes are also possible today from the Mid-South toward the lower Ohio Valley. These areas will be in the northeastern quadrant of the tropical system, the quadrant known for producing twisters. All the new rain means Barry will leave some places with totals of 15 to 20 inches of rain by the time the storm’s remnants dissipate by mid-week.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a press conference Sunday evening, July 14, that he was “extremely grateful that the forecasted rains and flooding did not materialize.”

He said all state offices would be open today, except in a few parishes where the power is still out. He was thankful that the worst-case scenario didn’t happen, and urged people not to let down their guards. “I want to remind everyone it’s just July. Typically we see most activity in August and Sept,” added Edwards.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said many staples of city life would resume Monday,  including public transportation, as well as recycling and trash collection services.

While not as destructive as feared, Barry did overwhelm some levees and cause widespread power outages. Several parishes, including Terrebonne, Lafourche, Jefferson and St. Mary, were flooded when water overtopped levees on Saturday. Also, because of Barry, officials had to close 16 roads and 24 bridges over the weekend, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation. More than 153,000 customers across Louisiana had lost power at one point due to strong winds and downed trees on Sunday. Entergy Louisiana said it brought in crews from all over the country to help restore power.

The Louisiana coastal community of Isle de Jean Charles had already lost 98 percent of its land prior to the storm. After Barry made landfall on Saturday, some residents were stranded through Sunday as high flood water kept roads closed. In another island community, Iberia Parish, strong winds destroyed some buildings.


Barry has caused only minor disruptions in supply chains and freight movement. with the damage turning out to be less than anticipated in the major population area around New Orleans. It’s still too early to know the exact amount of damage, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) did waive hours of service regulations for any carriers hauling relief supplies to the affected areas.

There were no significant disruptions to contracted freight, as the storm hit over the weekend in a relatively low volume area. Many carriers made adjustments to their routing last week as FreightWaves’ SONAR data indicated inbound tender rejections (ITRI.MSY) had increased from under 5 percent to more than 7 percent leading up to landfall. Outbound rejection rates (OTRI.MSY) fell from almost 12 percent to 8.5 percent leading up to the weekend as carriers took the opportunity to leave the area. Volumes did increase marginally over the past few days as shippers attempted to move freight out of the storm’s path. The Outbound Tender Market Share index (OTMS.MSY) shows this, indicating an increase of 5.4 percent from July 11 to July 14.

Norfolk Southern railroad (NYSE: NSC) announced on July 14 that it would return to normal operations in the New Orleans area now that Barry has weakened. However, shipments to and through New Orleans will experience delays of 24 to 48 hours. The company continues to work with interline partners to detour interchange traffic over alternate gateways where possible to minimize the impact.

On July 10, Union Pacific railroad (NYSE: UNP) said the following in a customer announcement: “We are also monitoring Tropical Storm Barry developing in the Gulf of Mexico. Rail traffic interchanged with eastern carriers at New Orleans has been restricted, as flood gates were closed this afternoon. Traffic moving through New Orleans will be rerouted through alternative locations until the storm passes. Union Pacific has placed embargoes for the locations of New Orleans and Avondale due to the gate closures and potential flooding.”

BNSF (NYSE: BRK.A) railroad officials said on June 11, “Due to the gate closures and flooding concerns, BNSF is holding all New Orleans-bound trains from moving into the area. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB), the switching railroad which services the Port of New Orleans and other local industries, has informed other rail carriers that it is no longer accepting inbound traffic. NOPB plans to resume operations to customer facilities once this storm passes and as soon as flood gates have reopened.”

“Customers with shipments scheduled to move into the region should expect delays throughout the duration of this storm event. With the New Orleans interchange gateway likely closed through the weekend, our operations teams are working with other carriers to identify alternate gateways unaffected by this storm to minimize disruptions to interchange traffic as much as possible.”

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.