Meet Tropical Storm Barry. The low pressure system meandering off the Gulf Coast is strengthening, and could become Hurricane Barry by this weekend. This is prompting calls to go out for residents to be ready.
Barry, at last check, is about 95 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving west at five miles an hour. For now, it’s a borderline tropical storm with 40 mile an hour sustained winds.
“It’s forecast to go into southern Louisiana; some of the outer bands, we’re actually seeing some of those across the barrier islands and coming into [Pensacola]. We’ll continue to see that as the storm starts to turn a little bit to the north,” says John Dosh, Escambia County Public Safety Director.
While Barry appears to be bypassing the Pensacola area for the most part, Dosh says nothing is a given; compounding matters is this weekend’s Blue Angels Air Show at Pensacola Beach.
“We’re certainly keeping a close eye on it, because there is a potential for [Barry] shifting to the right or the left,” Dosh says. “We’re dealing with Mother Nature and the big problem we’re going to be dealing with is predominantly rain and coastal conditions. There’s high surf; high rip currents, and there’s a lot of activity out there, especially this weekend with the air show.”
Activities began on Wednesday, and organizers are hoping the weather will hold up through the Blue Angels’ performance on Sunday. Dosh wants the visitors to know what they’re getting into, especially if they plan to sail their boats to the show.
“Maybe stay in the backwaters, or in the Intercostal [Waterway], something like that, and stay out of the Gulf – it’s pretty rough out there,” advises Dosh. “If you come to the beach, presently we’re under red flags, all along the coast that I’m aware of, here as well as over in Navarre. There’s not going to be any access to the water, either.”
Currently, the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center is monitoring Barry through a small facility on Pensacola Beach. Should something change rapidly, they’ll contact the Santa Rosa Island Authority for the appropriate action.
While Barry appears to be dodging the Florida Panhandle, Dosh says this is still a good time for households to review their hurricane procedures.
“This is a good test; take this time to review your internal plans, go through your disaster supply kits and make sure you’ve got everything you need to have,” Dosh says. “Update any of your personal documentation and make sure it’s in your disaster kit; and go through all the stuff to make sure that, should something impact us later on in the [hurricane] season, you’re good to go.”
Barry – be he tropical storm or the season’s first hurricane – is expected to make landfall Friday night or early Saturday with New Orleans in its crosshairs.
“Heavy rain’s on the way; there just not going to be able to avoid that in a lot of areas,” said Ken Graham, Director of the National Hurricane Center speaking on WDSU-TV in New Orleans.
“If you look at this forecast, some areas are getting anywhere from 10 to maybe 18 inches of rain; anywhere around Louisiana over to the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Graham. “So regardless of development, water is what we’ve got to keep talking about.”
Potentially catastrophic downpours could go on for hours as the storm pushes inland. That amount of rain could test the flood-control improvements made in the Crescent City since Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago.
Meanwhile, in the south Atlantic, forecasters are monitoring a tropical wave several hundred miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands showing disorganized shower activity. But, the National Hurricane Center places the chance of development at only 10 percent.
“All the models are showing that that will probably end up dissipating over the next 24 hours of so, says Escambia County’s John Dosh. “We’re monitoring it, but based on the models it doesn’t look like it’s going to survive.”
Barry is the second named storm of the 2019 hurricane season. Sub-tropical storm Andrea formed in the Atlantic in May and dissipated a couple of days later.