Barry threatens to flood 11 million+ in Southeast

A couple stroll down a flooded Lakeshore Drive along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in southeastern Louisiana. (CNN Photo)

LAKE PONCHARTRAIN, La. (CNN) — Ludovico Torri woke up Sunday to a surprising sight: Lake Pontchartrain was at the door of his Mandeville home, just north of New Orleans.

“The entire street and area under the house was underwater,” Torri told CNN.

Then the water rose another foot and the wind kept on getting stronger. His family, including four children, were stuck in their home with their car nearly flooded.

Tropical Storm Barry was briefly a Category 1 hurricane before it made landfall at 2 p.m. Saturday and immediately weakened back down to a tropical storm. The slow-moving storm still has heavy rain to come, threatening parts of Louisiana and Mississippi with life-threatening storm surge, flash flooding and river flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center.

More than 11 million people are under flash flood watches Sunday from the Gulf Coast all the way to the southern Midwest, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

While some families such as Torri’s are trapped in their home to ride the storm out, others have had to evacuate and find shelter elsewhere.

Joyce Webber, 64, was sheltering with about 20 other people in a St. Mary Parish community center when she learned a large tree branch had fallen on her mobile home and her storm door had blown off.

“Trailers don’t hold, no matter what type of storm,” she told CNN. “They just don’t hold.”

Others, such as Ollie and Hazel Jordan, have struggled to find a place where both they and their pets can be safe. The couple, 72 and 70 years old respectively, walked a mile in the rain from their trailer to a shelter at a Baton Rouge, La., middle school only to be told that they could not bring in their two cats and small dog.

Officials are working to evacuate residents with their pets, saying that it is important and humane to keep the two together even in life-threatening conditions.

It will not be an easy storm for the region to weather, but Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says that the state will recover.

“The people of Louisiana are resilient,” he added, “and while the next few days may be challenging, I am confident that we are going to get through this.”

As Barry moves north-northwest over Louisiana, it is expected to weaken, becoming a tropical depression sometime later Sunday, the NHC said. Heavy rain and flooding are the primary threat to the state, the National Weather Service in New Orleans.

“Don’t let your guard down if you are in Louisiana,” said CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He said the slow pace of the storm is compounding the flash flood threat and the storm is still pulling moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico.

State, local and federal officials spent days preparing for the storm and possible impacts.

Nearly 3,000 National Guards troops had been deployed throughout Louisiana for potential storm response, and the state’s Emergency Operations Center remains fully active and staffed around the clock, according to Edwards’ office.

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