Authorities in New Orleans have told residents to evacuate as Tropical Storm Sally bears down on the Gulf Coast after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency.
Edwards said in a news conference on Sunday afternoon that he is seeking a disaster declaration from the federal government before the storm makes landfall.
“We have every reason to believe that this storm represents a very significant threat to the people of Southeast Louisiana,” Edwards said.
A mandatory evacuation was issued for residents in New Orleans outside the levee protection system. That includes people who live in Venetian Isle, Irish Bayou, and Lake Catherine, NOLA.com reported. They have to evacuate starting 6 p.m. Sunday.
At around 10 a.m. on Sunday, the city government said that “residents are encouraged to prepare their properties for heavy rain and move vehicles to higher ground.” It added, “Storm surge between seven to eleven feet is possible in areas outside the levee system, with four to six feet anticipated in Lake Pontchartrain.”
National Weather Service officials, in an alert on Sunday afternoon, warned that the city could experience storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rains.
Storm surge warnings are in effect from Port Fourchon, Lousiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Hurricane warnings are in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and from Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans to Lake Maurepas including metropolitan New Orleans, according to weather service officials.
Sally is expected to strengthen to a hurricane on Monday. The storm currently has 60 mph winds and is located about 165 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and is moving to the west-northwest at 9 mph, officials said.
The National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty” forecast model for the storm predicts that it will arrive at Louisiana’s southeastern coast at around 1 a.m. Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the city of Grand Isle, Louisiana, issued a mandatory evacuation order starting at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered around the Jean Lafitte area of Jefferson Parish, said Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng on Sunday.
“What happened in the past doesn’t matter,” Lee Sheng said at a news conference. “We handle every threat the same … You can’t say, ‘I’m tired of this, I don’t want to do it.’ I doesn’t matter what kind of year we’ve had … we still have a major threat in front of us.”