The Latest: Corps officials watching rising river closely
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on a tropical weather system in the Gulf of Mexico (all times local):
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans says they’re not expecting widespread overtopping of the levees that protect the city from the Mississippi River but there are concerns for areas south of the city.
The river has been swollen from heavy rains further north. Now a tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to push it even higher.
The spokesman, Ricky Boyett, says the river is expected to rise to 20 feet (6 meters) by late Friday. He says the New Orleans area is protected by levees 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.6 meters) high.
He says the Corps is working with local officials to identify any low-lying areas and reinforce them.
Boyett says officials are out every day inspecting the levees and they’re “in good shape.”
The National Hurricane Center says conditions appear favorable for a weather system in the Gulf of Mexico to strengthen into a hurricane as it approaches the United States coastline by this weekend.
Forecasters said the weather disturbance is expected to become a tropical depression by Thursday morning; a tropical storm by Thursday night and a hurricane on Friday.
Forecasters said parts of the central Gulf Coast could see a total of up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain, with up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) in isolated areas.
The center on Wednesday began issuing advisories about the weather system, even though it hasn’t yet become a named storm. Forecasters are calling it “Potential Tropical Cyclone Two.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says a “considerable” amount of water could over-top levees that hold back the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area as emergency officials prepared for a weekend storm.
That’s because the Mississippi River is already swollen from spring rains as a tropical weather system builds in the Gulf of Mexico and could add about 3 feet (1 meter) of storm surge to the river.
Edwards said at a Wednesday morning news conference that he intends to declare a statewide disaster later in the day. He said National Guard troops were preparing to be deployed across Louisiana with high-water vehicles.
Forecasters expect a broad area of disturbed weather in the Gulf to become stronger this weekend when it threatens the region with torrential rain.
Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are all making preparations for heavy rain and possible flooding.
Forecasters expect a tropical weather system to develop into a storm that could push the already swollen Mississippi River precariously close to the tops of levees that protect New Orleans.
The low pressure area was over water, south of the Florida Panhandle early Wednesday and was expected to strengthen into a storm as it moved west through the Gulf’s warm waters.
Forecasters say parts of Louisiana could see up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain by Monday, with heavier amounts possible in some spots.
Mississippi and Texas were also at risk of torrential rains.
The National Weather Service said New Orleans is protected to a river level of 20 feet (6.1 meters), but it was forecast to rise above flood stage to 19 feet (5.8 meters) by Friday.