Tropical Storm Barry, poised to make landfall as the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019, churned ever closer to Louisiana's shore on Saturday morning as most New Orleans residents huddled at home, or in bars, bracing for the threat of severe flooding.
Barry is forecast to dump 10 to 20 inches of rain on New Orleans through Sunday.
Hurricane hunting aircraft detected sustained wind speeds at 65 miles per hour by noon on Friday.
A hurricane warning, indicating that hurricane conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours, is in effect for cities across Louisiana. "We need individuals to not drive through standing water".
The costliest and deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, Katrina submerged about 80 percent of New Orleans, causing some 1,800 deaths and more than $150bn in damage.
With lightning flashing in the distance and some streets already covered with water from heavy rains, shoppers at an Albertsons grocery store in Baton Rouge stripped shelves bare of bread by Thursday night.
Barry is getting stronger as it creeps across the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters en route to a landfall expected early Saturday in Louisiana.
Lake Pontchartrain floodgates are seen closed ahead of Tropical Storm Barry in New Orleans on Friday, July 12, 2019.
There are levees 20ft to 25ft high along the Mississippi River to protect New Orleans from flooding. At the time, the storm was about 100 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River; forecasters say Barry could become a Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall.
"This storm is stressing them out", she said.
"The rain's not going to shut us down, we're going to shut this place down", said Brett Tidball, 33, who gathered with eight friends at Bourbon Street bar for his bachelor party, asking the pianist for back-to-back songs about bad weather.
"Heed the warnings", he told CNN's John Berman on Friday, pointing out that fatalities often happen when motorists try to drive through floodwater.
"When Katrina came through here, some people stayed".
Following President Donald Trump's state of emergency declaration, Louisiana officials have activated 3,000 National Guard members in anticipation of Barry's path of destruction, the governor said. The forecast is for 3 to 6 feet of water over normally dry land in low-lying coastal areas.
The combination of risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland.
Power outages were moderate Friday evening with about 15,000 customers (including businesses) without electricity, according to the website PowerOutage.us.
Larry Gumpert, the 74-year-old owner of a pest-control company, said he planned to hunker down in his home, passing the time by cooking and catching up on household chores.
"We could be looking at widespread major flooding across several river basins", NHC said.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered along the coast between Intracoastal City to St. Bernard Parish, including Plaquemines Parish.
The National Weather Service tweeted that there is "danger of a life-threatening storm surge along the coast of southern and southeastern Louisiana ... and portions of coastal MS".
The Florida Panhandle has seen double red flags go up in some areas, closing beaches, the National Weather Service said.