Flash floods in New Orleans are putting its levees at risk again

New Orleans.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Kshithij Shrinath)

New Orleans' levees are back in the news.

Torrential rain and thunderstorms have pounded the Louisiana city since early Wednesday morning ahead of a tropical storm or hurricane that's likely to arrive this weekend. The water has led the National Weather Service to predict the Mississippi River will hit a record-breaking 20-foot crest by Saturday — the same height as many levees surrounding New Orleans, The Washington Post reports.

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On Wednesday morning, an apparent water spout was reported in the Gentilly area of the city, per NOLA.com. That came during a tornado warning for the city, which lasted until 8:30 a.m. As of 9:45 a.m., NOLA.com reported that nearly 20,000 homes and businesses had lost power. Upwards of four feet of standing water later settled on some streets as well because even though officials confirmed the city's pumps were working properly, they were simply overwhelmed by the sudden downpour.

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Conditions are only expected to worsen when Tropical Storm Barry makes landfall either as a tropical storm or category 1 hurricane in New Orleans on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center predicts. Rainfall from that storm should push the city's surrounding levees to capacity, and levee authorities are closing more than 200 flood gates around the city in anticipation, NOLA.com reports.

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