NEW ORLEANS -- Barry rolled into the Louisiana coast Saturday, flooding highways, forcing people to scramble to rooftops and dumping heavy rain that could test the levees and pumps that were bolstered after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

After briefly becoming a Category 1 hurricane, the system weakened to a tropical storm as it made landfall near Intracoastal City, about 160 miles west of New Orleans, with its winds falling to 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

By late afternoon, New Orleans had been spared the worst effects, receiving only light showers and gusty winds. But officials warned that Barry could still cause disastrous flooding across a wide stretch of the Gulf Coast and drop up to 20 inches of rain through Sunday across a part of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

"This is just the beginning," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. "It's going to be a long several days for our state."

The Coast Guard rescued a dozen people from flooded areas of Terrebonne Parish, south of New Orleans, some of them from rooftops, a spokeswoman said. The people included a 77-year-old man who called for help because he had about 4 feet of water in his home.

None of the main levees on the Mississippi River failed or were breached, Edwards said. But a levee in Terrebonne Parish was overtopped by water, officials said. And video showed water getting over a second levee in Plaquemines Parish, where fingers of land extend deep into the Gulf of Mexico.

Nearly all businesses in Morgan City, about 85 miles west of New Orleans, were shuttered with the exception of Meche's Donuts Shop. Owner Todd Hoffpauir did a brisk business despite the pounding winds and pulsating rain.

While making doughnuts, Hoffpauir said he heard an explosion and a ripping sound and later saw that the wind had peeled off layers of the roof at an adjacent apartment complex.

In some places, residents continued to build defenses. At the edge of the town of Jean Lafitte just outside New Orleans, volunteers helped several town employees sandbag a 600-foot stretch of the two-lane state highway. The street was already lined with one-ton sandbags, and 30-pound bags were being used to strengthen them.

"I'm here for my family, trying to save their stuff," volunteer Vinnie Tortorich said. "My cousin's house is already under."

In Lafayette, Willie Allen and his 11-year-old grandson, Gavin Coleman, shoveled sand into 20 green bags, joining a group of more than 20 other people doing the same thing during a break in the rain. Wearing a mud-streaked T-shirt and shorts, Allen loaded the bags onto the back of his pickup.

"Everybody is preparing," he said. "Our biggest concern is the flood."

Many businesses were also shut down or closed early in Baton Rouge, and winds were strong enough to rock large pickup trucks. Whitecaps were visible on the Mississippi.

Oil and gas operators evacuated hundreds of platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 70% of Gulf oil production and 56% of gas production were turned off Saturday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which compiles the numbers from industry reports.

Barry developed as a disturbance in the Gulf that stunned New Orleans during the Wednesday morning rush with a sudden deluge that flooded streets, homes and businesses. For several days, officials braced for more flooding.

But by early Saturday evening, the city saw only intermittent rain and gusty winds, with occasional glimpses of sunshine.

Elsewhere, more than 120,000 customers in Louisiana and another nearly 6,000 customers in Mississippi and Alabama were without power Saturday, according to poweroutage.us.

During a storm update through Facebook Live, National Hurricane Center Director Ken 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."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.