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Days Before Hurricane Expected to Hit New Orleans, City Endures 10 Inches of Rain as Mississippi River Swells

"Overlapping extreme-weather events aren't just a New Orleans problem."

Annunciation Street in New Orleans was flooded Wednesday morning.

Annunciation Street in New Orleans was flooded Wednesday morning. (Image: screenshot)

While the Louisiana coast braces for what's expected to be the first formed hurricane of the 2019 season, predicted to make landfall Saturday, New Orleans on Wednesday endured torrential downpours of up to 10 inches in parts of the city.

The Mississippi River is predicted to crest at 20 feet on Saturday, which, as meteorologist Eric Holthaus pointed out, is the height of New Orleans' levees. 

The flooding in New Orleans Wednesday morning was so bad that people were using kayaks to navigate city streets.

Some parts of downtown endured up to 10 inches of rain in a matter of hours while the cities of Harvey, Metairie, and Gretna were all reporting flooding.

Barry, the second named tropical depression of the season that NOAA is giving a "near 100 percent chance" of forming into a hurricane, is predicted to slam into the coast on Saturday to the west of New Orleans. Storm surge is expected to be between three and five feet, and the storm is predicted to bring rainfall of at least 18 inches.

Barry was formed out of Midwestern rainstorms, as Earther's Brian Kahn reported Tuesday:

A tropical storm getting its beginnings in Missouri may seem odd, but Space City Weather meteorologist Matt Lanza told Earther in a Twitter direct message that it "happens more often than people would assume." Lanza pointed to a tweet from Michael Lowry, a tropical storm expert who works at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, noting that while 50-60 percent of Atlantic tropical cyclones start near Africa as series of thunderstorms, that still leaves a good chunk with other origins. Storms with screwball starts like potential Tropical Storm Barry have happened before.

Wednesday's New Orleans rainfall and Barry are both indicators of the climate crisis, Kahn said on Twitter.

"The U.S. just had its wettest 12-month period on record beating the previous record set last month which beat the record set the month before," Kahn said, citing NOAA statistics.

NOAA released a report Wednesday which shows how high tide flooding events increased in 2018, and are expected to continue to increase in 2019. 

Holthaus, in a piece for The New Republic, noted that the new reality of the climate crisis and its effects on the planet are just beginning to be understood. 

"Overlapping extreme-weather events aren't just a New Orleans problem," wrote Holthaus. "In November, a team of researchers found that unless carbon emissions are greatly reduced, by the end of the century many parts of the world would face overlapping disasters most of the time."

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