LOUISIANA (AP) -- The National Hurricane Center issued hurricane watches for parts of coastal Louisiana on Wednesday, as the first tropical system to slam the US this year is expected to make landfall as a hurricane.
The watches extend from the mouth of the Mississippi River west to Cameron, Louisiana. They do not include the New Orleans metro area, which was inundated with rain for several hours.
The National Hurricane Center predicts Tropical Storm Barry will form in the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday and strengthen to a hurricane by Saturday, when it's expected to make landfall along the Louisiana or upper Texas coast. At least one Louisiana parish issued a mandatory evacuation ahead of the storm.
Storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and extensive flooding are forecast in the Gulf Coast region into the weekend.
The slow-moving storm was crawling at about 8 mph, the NHC said. That means it could hover over the same place for long time, dumping rain relentlessly.
The tropical system spawned its first tornado warning and flash flood emergency in the New Orleans area Wednesday as streets, homes and hotel lobbies flooded.
The storm dumped up to 8 inches of rain on New Orleans in about two hours during the morning rush hour, National Weather Service New Orleans Meteorologist Phil Grigsby told CNN.
New Orleans resident Angela Catalano, whose house is already flooded, said she was worried.
"We took in about 2 feet of water in our basement/ground floor level," Catalano said. "I'm very concerned about the impending storm, with the Mississippi River near flood stage. I'm very worried about more flooding."
During the severe flooding in New Orleans, one man saw something unusual swimming on the sidewalk: a goldfish. "Gotta call it a rain day when the goldfish are swimming on the sidewalks!" he wrote in an Instagram post shared on his design firm's account.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said about 10 to 15 inches of rain could fall within 24 hours between Friday and Saturday.
Edwards issued a state of emergency for the state on Wednesday ahead of the storm, and so did New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
"This is going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and widespread, heavy rainfall, potentially impacting every part of the state," Edwards said in a news release.
"Now is absolutely the time to pay attention. Heed every single warning that comes from the City of New Orleans, and as you listen to media outlets," Cantrell said during a press conference. "Pay attention to all tornado, as well as flash flood warnings. Be prepared for the impacts."
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