Louisiana declared a state of emergency Wednesday as a severe storm swamped New Orleans and a possible hurricane was on its way. NOLA.com's headline for its photo story: "New Orleans underwater." In a separate piece, NOLA.com reports the Mississippi River is expected to rise to the top of the lowest of the levees that protect New Orleans. The storm is associated with what the AP calls "a broad area of disturbed weather in the Gulf" that was expected to become a tropical storm by Thursday and a hurricane, expected to be named Hurricane Barry, by Friday. The storm was expected to make landfall in Louisiana Saturday with winds of up to 85mph. Though it is only predicted to be a Category 1 hurricane, the storm surge and large amount of rainfall could create big problems. The Mississippi River is already at 16 feet thanks to a historic spring flood season—just one foot below what is considered flood stage.
Some levee segments are as low as 18 feet, and forecasters are now predicting a surge of 3 to 5 feet from Barry, meaning the Mississippi River could rise to between 19 and 22 feet by Saturday. There could be "overtopping at some of those locations, something that has never happened in the city's modern history," per NOLA.com. The highest level recorded since the 1920s is 21.3 feet. New Orleans' mayor also declared a flash flood emergency Wednesday as streets flooded—some people were paddling down them in kayaks—and said one neighborhood had gotten 8.4 inches of rain in three hours, per the AP. The Washington Post reports some areas of the city got 10 inches of rain—and says Wednesday's flooding could be a preview of worse to come over the weekend. The entire coast of Louisiana, plus Mississippi and Texas, is at risk of torrential rains thanks to the storm. (Scientists are predicting "a floodier future.")