Three women contend with high winds while walking along Canal Street in New Orleans on Friday. The first major storm system expected to strike the U.S. this hurricane season strengthened into Tropical Storm Barry on Thursday, continuing to dump rain along already inundated parts of the Gulf Coast before its expected landfall on Saturday. 
Photo: BRYAN THOMAS/NYT
Photo: BRYAN THOMAS/NYT

Georgians rush to leave New Orleans, Louisiana coast as Barry nears

Many members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a black Greek-letter organization, and others in the city are packing up and leaving New Orleans as Tropical Storm Barry nears.

The strengthening storm, which is moving through the Gulf of Mexico, could dump as much as 20 inches of rain on Louisiana, according to forecasters.

People along the Louisiana coast started placing sandbags around their property , boarding up windows and stockpiling supplies.

Barry could become a hurricane before it is expected to make landfall on Saturday.

>> RELATED | The latest Barry updates, including its impact on Georgia at AJC.com

Meanwhile officials of the sorority, which is holding its 54th national convention in the Big Easy, notified its members that it was ending the meeting earlier than scheduled. 

A spokeswoman for the sorority said it would issue a statement later today.

In a post on the sorority’s Facebook page, National President Beverly E. Smith, said that “After consultation with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials regarding the expectation of Tropical Storm Barry, I am officially announcing that the business of the 54th National Convention will conclude tomorrow, Friday, July 12 after the election and installation of officers.”

Cheryl Cruel-Simmons, was aware of the potential for bad weather before she left left Cairo, Ga. but wasn’t overly concerned because “It wasn’t even a named tropical storm yet.”

On Friday, though, she, her husband and a friend decided to drive back home.

“I didn’t feel like we were in any danger, but late last night we could tell the wind was picking up,” said Cruel-Simmons, who pledged the Eta Kappa Chapter  of the sorority at Spelman College. 

She said the hotel also notified guests that it was suspending room service and would started offering a limited menu because its the staff might not be able to come in “because they have to protect their property too.”

 

Other sorority members posted photos on social media of long lines at Louis Armstrong International Airport as people headed back home.

The airport advised people to arrive early and check flight status remotely.

Omelika Kuumba, a member of Delta Sigma Theta from metro Atlanta, was staying in place until Monday.

“All the flights to Atlanta were told out today,” said Kuumba, one of the founders of Giwayen Mata, an all-female African drum, dance and vocal ensemble. “I’m staying until Monday since the storm is forecast to be bad tomorrow and Sunday, which is the day  I was originally scheduled to depart.:

By late morning, Patty Garrett was already in Mobile, Ala. after leaving New Orleans hours earlier.

Residents fill sandbags Friday, July 12, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La., ahead of Tropical Storm Barry. The National Weather Service in New Orleans says water is already starting to cover some low lying roads in coastal Louisiana as Barry approaches the state from the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Garrett, of Marietta, was in the city to help friends who were vendors at the Essence Festival, which was held last week, and, later, the Delta convention.

Garrett, who is the lead for the Georgia chapter of the nonprofit Moms of Black Boys United, said she noticed spots where water was starting to pool. They started to worry about their safety.

“We kept getting messages from friends and family from all over to get out,” she said. “The first thing I thought of is that the last place I want to be if a hurricane or tropical storm hits is New Orleans.”

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