US South faces a drenching as Tropical Storm Barry hits

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The Independent US

Swathes of the south-eastern United States faced the risk of flooding on Monday after Tropical Storm Barry swept ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, drenching the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama with up to 10 inches of rain.

Although Barry did not quite make it to the 74mph sustained wind speed level that would have qualified it as a hurricane, it was causing almost as much trouble. Some 34,000 people were without power and emergency services warned that flooding could occur in four southern states during the day.

The US Air Force moved 32 transport planes and helicopters from their base at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, inland to Little Rock in Arkansas, well clear of Barry's expected path.

Oil companies shut down rigs and evacuated thousands of workers from installations in the Gulf of Mexico, while New Orleans – which had been expecting to bear the brunt of Barry until it unexpectedly veered away north-eastwards – closed 60 of the 72 floodgates which protect the city, which lies below sea level.

Deprived of the warm ocean moisture which fuelled it, the storm rapidly lost intensity as it moved inland. But Barry's slow speed of 13mph increased the risk of massive local deluges and thus flooding.

Eight counties in north-western Florida issued voluntary evacuation instructions.