What happened with Hurricane Barry?

The 5th Season: Hurricane Barry

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A cluster of thunderstorms in Kansas would eventually become a hurricane making landfall in Louisiana in mid-July in 2019.

All the time, forecasters say, “No two storms are alike.” And that is incredibly true for Hurricane Barry.

There are no doubt Barry was an unconventional way to form a hurricane. Barry began as a mid-latitude cluster of thunderstorms and eventually evolved into an area of low pressure with tropical characteristics. But Barry didn’t just come out of nowhere. Long-range weather models began picking up on Barry more than a week before it made landfall in Louisiana.

By Wednesday, July 10, the National Hurricane Center used its new designation of Potential Tropical Cyclone to allow for the issues of tropical watches and warnings, especially across portions of the Louisiana coast for a potential landfall Friday into Saturday. The first forecast cone was extremely accurate in detailing the eventual path and strength of Barry.

Potential Tropical Cyclone No. 2 track
Potential Tropical Cyclone No. 2 track (Source: WAFB)

It was clear by Thursday, July 11 that Louisiana would feel the full brunt of Barry. But major questions remained on how strong it would get and how much rain would come. Initial estimates put a catastrophic 15″ to 25″ of rain across the WAFB viewing area. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham gave a live update on the potential of Barry.

“These are very large numbers that we have here, so in this purple area here, that’s 15 to 20 inches of rain," he said. "Some areas, we don’t know where, and sometimes, we see that even outside that main area could get up to 25 inches of rain and that’s a real problem.”

Flood Risk associated with Tropical Storm Barry
Flood Risk associated with Tropical Storm Barry (Source: WAFB)

“We are still at risk of significant flooding in south Louisiana," said Gov. John Bel Edwards. "Whether it comes from rain or from the river, water is water. We are encouraging everyone to take this very very seriously.”

Even with these dire rainfall estimates, Barry struggled to get organized due to dry air situated across central and north Louisiana. The dry air ate away at tropical moisture trying to move inland on the north side of Barry’s circulation.

Even by landfall on Saturday, July 13, long-range low-resolution weather models struggled to handle the stubborn dry air to the north of Barry. Short-range high-resolution guidance was painting a much drier picture. Yet, the Hurricane Center held on to very high rainfall amounts.

Barry Rainfall Forecast - Saturday, July 12
Barry Rainfall Forecast - Saturday, July 12

The rainfall totals never materialized locally. Flooding within the WAFB viewing area occurred in extreme northwest Pointe Coupee Parish two days after Barry made landfall. In fact, it was days after, that Barry produced most of its rainfall across a chunk of southwest and south central Louisiana, which came as a surprise to forecasters.

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“The issue was it was kind of a half a storm. And to get 20 inches of rain just with the backside of the storm, just think if it was a complete storm. It could have been easily 40 inches of rain somewhere [from] Baton Rouge to Lafayette to Lake Charles,” Graham explained.

In the WAFB viewing area, Barry produced localized flooding and numerous downed trees, but will ultimately be remembered as a storm with a bark worse than its bite.

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