Today’s discussion is mostly about the storm brewing in the very warm waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. It could be trouble for parts of the Gulf Coast as well as the Crescent City, New Orleans.
Tropical alert: A disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, named Potential Tropical Cyclone Two, could cause significant disruptions in freight movement across the Deep South for the next several days. It’ll be a particularly big problem for the Louisiana coast, as well as the New Orleans and Baton Rouge metropolitan areas because the Mississippi River is already very high. It will likely rise above flood stage by Friday night. More flash flooding is possible in the Big Easy today from strong/severe thunderstorms on the outer bands of the Gulf storm. There’s a very good chance the storm will strengthen, becoming Tropical Storm Barry by tonight, then making landfall on the central Louisiana coast sometime Saturday, possibly as a Category 1 hurricane.
The National Weather Service has issued a Storm Surge Watch for New Orleans and a Hurricane Watch for most of the Louisiana coast. From Friday through the weekend, storm surges of three to six feet above ground are likely in the Storm Surge Watch area, with one to three feet in Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi coast. Regional rainfall totals through the weekend could reach 10 to 15 inches, with pockets of nearly 20 inches. The storm could also cause wind damage across the area.
Depending on its exact track and intensity, the storm may end up shutting down portions of I-10 and I-12, as well as many secondary routes. Oil production in the Gulf may slow down during the storm. Exxon Mobil evacuated some employees from three platforms yesterday, and may remove more today. Business at the Ports of New Orleans and Baton Rouge will likely slow down, too.
Other weather: Drivers will need to be especially careful of concentrated severe storms in two areas—from northeastern North Dakota into northwestern Minnesota, including the I-29 corridor; and from Charleston, West Virginia to eastern Ohio, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Buffalo and Rochester. A few severe storms could pop in other places such as Houston, Grand Forks, Cincinnati, Nashville, Columbus, Raleigh and Philadelphia.
The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning for the Phoenix metro area for today, where afternoon highs will approach 115°. More high humidity will make it feel like 105° to 110° from eastern Texas to northern Alabama. Drivers: pack a lot of extra ice and water, and take your breaks in comfortable, cool spaces.