NEW ORLEANS, LA (WDAM/AP) - Born just a few days ago in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Barry has grown into a full-fledged hurricane.
Carrying “off the chart” amounts of moisture, sprawling Barry strengthened into a hurricane Saturday as it crawled toward shore.
The slow-moving storm knocked out power on the Gulf Coast, dumping heavy rains that could last for days.
More than 70,000 customers were without power Saturday morning, including 66,830 in Louisiana and 3,140 in Mississippi, according to poweroutage.us.
The Coast Guard rescued more than a dozen people from the flooded remote island of Isle de Jean Charles, south of New Orleans, where water had risen so high that some residents were clinging to rooftops. But in the Big Easy, residents and tourists wandered calmly through mostly empty streets under a light rain.
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. Storms become hurricanes when their winds reach 74 mph (120 kph) or higher. Barry was expected to weaken again after reaching land and become a tropical depression on Sunday.
Though expected to be a weak hurricane, Barry threatened disastrous flooding across a swath of the Gulf Coast.
By Saturday morning, the storm system had gathered a “big slough of moisture,” meaning “a lot of rain is on the way,” said National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham.
During a storm update through Facebook Live, Graham pointed to a computer screen showing a huge, swirling mess of airborne water. “That is just an amazing amount of moisture,” he said. “That is off the chart.”
The rains were hitting coastal Alabama and Mississippi the hardest.