Hurricane watch threatens Gulf Coast: 'We all need to take this very, very seriously'

States of emergency were declared in New Orleans and Louisiana overall on Wednesday as a hurricane watch threatens the state's southern coast.

The tropical moisture, which already triggered heavy rain and flash flood warnings in New Orleans Wednesday, is expected to intensify into a tropical depression by Thursday morning as the storm moves in from the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is then forecast to develop into Tropical Storm Barry by Thursday afternoon.

It may even strengthen to a category 1 hurricane by the weekend.

"This is going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and widespread, heavy rainfall potentially impacting every part of the state," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement. "No one should take this storm lightly. As we know all too well in Louisiana, low intensity does not necessarily mean low impact."

"Now is the time to check your emergency supplies and get a game-plan for your family and pets," Edwards said.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell added, "New Orleans may experience more widespread localized severe flooding and gale force winds that could result in the endangerment and threat of life, injury and possible property damage."

The system is expected to make landfall in western Louisiana on Saturday, with the worst of the conditions hitting Friday night through Sunday morning.

Tornadoes are possible when the storm reaches Louisiana.

"We all need to take this very, very seriously," Edwards said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

Regardless of how intense the storm may become, heavy rain is expected from the Florida Panhandle to the upper Texas coast and is forecast to extend inland into Louisiana, eastern Texas and the the lower Mississippi Valley.

Edwards warned that Louisiana could see as much as 10 to 15 inches of rain over a 24-hour period.

"We're not sure yet of the exact track of the storm, or the strength of the potential tropical system once it makes landfall. However we're confident that there will be widespread heavy rainfall and coastal flooding," he said. "We could have heavy rain not just over the weekend but into next week."
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