Barry will bring more rain than wind

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2019

By Skip Rigney

Barry will likely be remembered in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi for the heavy rains and flooding that it causes. But, exactly where within the two states those memory-worthy downpours will occur is difficult to nail-down.

On Friday the National Weather Service issued flash flood watches for most of Mississippi, as well as southeast Louisiana. Those are the areas near and to the east of the anticipated track of the center of Barry. A watch does not mean that flooding will occur, but it does mean that conditions are favorable for flash floods somewhere in the area, and people under the watch should be alert to that possibility.

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The NWS expects that Friday night through Monday morning, Barry will dump at least four inches of rain on most locations in Mississippi and southern and eastern Louisiana. Within that broad region, forecasters predict that a significant area covering as many as 80 counties and parishes will see 4-10 inches of rain. A smaller swath of 10-20 inches of rain is expected, probably centered somewhere 50 to 100 miles west of Pearl River County.

However, our county is likely to remain under a flash flood watch at least through Saturday night, so we need to be alert to the possibility that recurring heavy bands of rain could move over us and cause significant issues locally.

Barry has been an odd tropical cyclone in terms of its overall structure and wind field, and that has helped keep the system weaker in terms of wind than it might have been under more typical conditions.

Earlier this week, several computer weather models calculated that Barry could intensify into a hurricane with winds over 100 miles per hour. But during its formative stages on Wednesday and Thursday, Barry was plagued by what was happening three to five miles above the surface.

At those higher altitudes, northeasterly winds were tilting the system’s developing thunderstorms southwestward. Also, that northeasterly flow was injecting drier air in the upper levels above Alabama and Georgia into Barry’s circulation. Tropical cyclones intensify when they have growing towers of clouds near their center. Those clouds release heat into the air as water vapor condenses into cloud droplets. That process was disrupted in Barry’s important early stages, creating a lop-sided system that was slow to organize.

However, Barry had plenty of warm water for fuel in the northern Gulf, which helped counterbalance the factors inhibiting its growth. It continued to strengthen on Friday, and forecasters at the NWS’s National Hurricane Center expected that winds would intensify to hurricane strength in a 30 to 50 mile wide swath on the eastern side of the storm.  With the track of the center expected to be west of Houma and Baton Rouge, the strongest winds should stay well to our west, although Saturday and Sunday will certainly be breezy in our county.

Also, as the storm’s feeder bands of showers move through south Mississippi and southeast Louisiana, a few short-lived, relatively weak tornadoes may spin up. The NWS expects the tornado risk to lessen as the weekend wears on.

By Monday, Barry should be over Arkansas heading northeast, and we should be returning to typical summer weather for the rest of the week.