Hurricane Barry was churning off Louisiana on Saturday, poised to make landfall as the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019 in a westward shift that appeared to spare low-lying New Orleans from the massive flooding feared earlier this week.
Hurricane Barry churning ever closer to New Orleans Saturday- as many residents huddled at home, or in bars, bracing for the threat of severe flooding.
The National Weather Service predicts Barry- which is picking up wind speed--- is expected to make landfall in the afternoon or evening.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ORLEANS MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL SAYING: "This again could have high impact on the city of New Orleans.
We're continuing to monitor of course the levels of the Mississippi River." Some parts of New Orleans were already flooded after thunderstorms drenched it with a foot of rain on Wednesday.
Despite that, authorities in Louisiana are urging locals to secure property, stock up on provisions and shelter in place.
Some nervous residents are not taking any chances, opting to flee the city.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) RACHEL YOUNG, BATON ROUGE LOUISIANA RESIDENT WHO WAS ATTENDING DELTA SIGMA THETA, A COLLEGE SORORITY, CONVENTION SAYING: "We're doing everything necessary just to make sure that we're safe and out of harm's way." Officials also reported an exodus of tourists on Friday.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in outlying coastal areas beyond the protection of levees.
By Saturday morning - as the rains picked up-- more than 62,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana were already without power.
Torrential rains pose a threat for the Gulf of Mexico's energy industry, where oil and gas operations have already cut production by nearly 60 percent.
The impending hurricane could test beefed-up flood defenses put in place since Hurricane Katrina, which left much of New Orleans underwater in 2005 and killed about 1,800 people.