11 JUL 2019: New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says the city's Treme neighbourhood got 8.4 inches (21.3 centimetres) of rain in three hours, and more nasty weather is on the way. Cantrell declared an emergency as she other officials spoke at a news conference Wednesday after storms swamped city streets and paralyzed traffic.

Residents were urged to stay home, check that they have supplies for at least three days and make sure neighbourhood storm drains are clear.

Some streets turned into small, swift rivers that overturned garbage cans. Water was up to the doors of many cars. Other vehicles were abandoned. Kayakers paddled their way down some streets.

National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott says a hurricane hunter aircraft was going to look for the centre of the developing tropical cyclone in the Gulf of Mexico. He says the aircraft will provide information about its likely landfall.

Schott says storm surge could raise the Mississippi River to 20 feet (6.1 metres), adding, “That's not what we'd consider worst-case.”

The storm was associated with a broad area of disturbed weather in the Gulf that forecasters said was on track to strengthen into a hurricane by the weekend. The system was expected to become a tropical depression by Thursday morning, a tropical storm by Thursday night and a hurricane on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans said the agency was not expecting widespread overtopping of the levees, but there are concerns for areas south of the city. The river was expected to rise to 20 feet (6 metres) by late Friday at a key gauge in New Orleans. The area is protected by levees 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.6 metres) high, he said.

The Corps was working with local officials to identify any low-lying areas and reinforce them, he said. He cautioned that the situation may change as more information about the storm arrives.

“We're confident the levees themselves are in good shape. The big focus is height,” spokesman Ricky Boyett said.

Mississippi and Texas were also at risk of torrential rains.

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