The Tennessee Valley could be the recipient of some much-needed rainfall this weekend if Tropical Storm Barry follows a path as predicted by the National Weather Service.
There could also be potential for flooding.
Weather experts were watching the storm closely Thursday as it strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center said up to 20 inches of rain could fall in parts of eastern Louisiana, while 10–15 inches is possible for New Orleans.
Barry could have winds of about 75 mph, just over the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane, when it comes ashore, making it a Category 1 storm, forecasters said.
A model released Thursday by the NWS predicted Barry could travel north through Mississippi and Arkansas before curving east toward the Tennessee Valley. The “cone of uncertainty” is mainly over northwest Alabama, but Limestone County is also included.
Katie Magee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, said the storm had slowed down, which lends credence to the thinking it may come ashore as a hurricane. She said the storm is also helping pump more gulf moisture into the state, which will continue to fuel pop-up thunderstorms ahead of Barry's arrival.
“We'll have some heavy rainfall, and that will continue through the weekend,” she said. “It will increase our risk for flooding and flash flooding, and that will be our primary threat.”
Because Barry's threat to the Tennessee Valley is still a few days away, Magee said it would be hard to gauge specific impacts. If the track comes through North Alabama on Sunday, heavy rains and wind gusts could lead to toppled trees and downed power lines.
Forecasters will also be watching Barry's outer bands closely as spin-up tornadoes could be possible, particularly on the east side of the storm.
Magee advised residents in the storm's path to prepare themselves now. Preparations should include kits containing food, water, medications, flash lights, first aid kits, phone chargers or any other supplies needed in case of an emergency or evacuation.
She also advised residents to stay weather aware by monitoring the NWS, NHC or local news outlets for the latest information.