Barry strengthens into a hurricane as it nears the Louisiana coast

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The storm threatening the Louisiana coast has strengthened to a hurricane.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. Saturday advisory that Barry had reached maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), with higher gusts.

Hurricane-force winds were measured some 45 miles (75 km) to the east of the storm’s center, which was located 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of Lafayette, Louisiana. It was moving northwest at 6 mph (9 kph).

Weather forecasters said a hurricane warning is in effect for Intracoastal City to Grand Isle. Such a warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area.

Authorities say water is flowing over the tops of a few levees in areas south of New Orleans as Tropical Storm Barry nears the coast.

Officials said Saturday morning the levees are in lower Plaquemines Parish and are not the main levees protecting the Mississippi River.

Plaquemines Parish emergency workers told news outlets they are getting crews to check the levees and make any repairs needed.

The levees are near Myrtle Grove and Pointe Celeste, and the water is threatening Highway 23, one of the main roads through the parish.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told WVUE-TV anyone who remains south of Myrtle Grove should evacuate from the finger of low-lying, flood prone land that follows the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Much of Plaquemines Parish had been under an evacuation order since Thursday.

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