LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Tropical Storm Barry is drenching parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Since making landfall as a hurricane yesterday, the storm has brought destructive winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surge. It's weakened and is now creeping slowly northward over western Louisiana, though it's having an impact across the Gulf Coast. NPR's Debbie Elliott has been covering the storm from New Orleans, and she joins us now.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What's happening there?
ELLIOTT: Well, it's pretty calm here in New Orleans. There have been intermittent rain showers over the last couple of days. But, really, this city escaped the worst not getting the rain once feared. And while more is coming in the next 24 hours, it's not the deluge that was originally forecast. You know, the big worry here was that a storm surge from a hurricane would collide with the already flooding Mississippi River and really test the state's elaborate new flood-protection system. All of the floodgates had been shut down for the first time ever. And then that did not come to pass, so people here are very happy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. The storm came ashore as a hurricane yesterday. Then it was downgraded to a tropical storm. What do we know about the damage done further afield?
ELLIOTT: Well, the damage assessment will begin once this rain clears out of here today. The storm did come ashore west of here near Morgan City. What we do know is that there was scattered but minimal wind damage. Something like 150,000 customers are without power in Louisiana and Mississippi right now. Water overtopped some levees on waterways south of New Orleans in Plaquemines and Terrebonne Parish. Repairs are going to be started there later today. Communities around Lake Pontchartrain are getting some water. And there have been some high rescue - high-water rescues overnight. You know, yesterday, the Coast Guard even used helicopters to get some people who were stranded on their rooftops with rising floodwaters. The heavy rain has stretched into Mississippi and into Alabama. There have been reports of isolated street flooding. And now the system is heading north, and Arkansas will be next.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What are authorities concerned about now?
ELLIOTT: You know, flooding is still a big issue because this is such a slow-moving system. And while the rainfall forecasts have come down, it's still a threat. The ground is saturated. There's already high levels on rivers and streams, and so it just can't contain all of this. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is worried that people might let down their guard. And he doesn't want that to happen. Here's what he said.
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JOHN BEL EDWARDS: It continues to move too slowly. And some people may think that the threat is over. Some people may be tempted to think that because it was a Category 1 when it came ashore and has already been downgraded to a tropical storm that it does not present a threat. That is not the case.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, these storms always have an economic impact. What are businesses and commerces (ph) feeling there along the Gulf?
ELLIOTT: Well, here in New Orleans, also up in Baton Rouge, a good number of businesses closed. Air travel was curtailed. You know, conventions were cut short. The Coast Guard closed shipping on the Mississippi River. And then in the Gulf of Mexico, something like 300 offshore oil and gas rigs and platforms were evacuated. And that's resulted in curtailing, like, 70% of Gulf oil production and about half of the natural gas that's produced in the Gulf of Mexico. So that's a big impact.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're going to be following this story. And that's NPR's Debbie Elliott in New Orleans.
Debbie, thank you so much.
ELLIOTT: You're welcome.
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