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Louisiana under state of emergency as coast braces for storm in Gulf

Tropical storm warnings were issued from the central Louisiana coast to the Alabama-Florida border as Potential Tropical Cyclone Three approaches.

Louisiana's governor declared a state of emergency Thursday ahead of heavy rain and other possible effects of an approaching tropical system just weeks into hurricane season.

Potential Tropical Cyclone Three is in the Gulf of Mexico and forecast to bring tropical storm conditions to the coast starting Friday. By Thursday night, tropical storm warnings had been issued from Intracoastal City, which is south of Lafayette, east to the Alabama-Florida border, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The National Weather Service said the New Orleans area could get 8 inches of rain and winds of 30 mph, with higher gusts. But all of south Louisiana is expected to be affected, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference Thursday.

"Everybody has to be ready," he said. A state of emergency authorizes the use of state resources in storm response efforts.

Southwest Louisiana was hit with two hurricanes within weeks of each other — first, Category 4 Laura, which made landfall near Cameron in August, and then Category 2 Delta, which hit 12 miles to the east around six weeks later.

Then came a severe winter storm in February, and last month, more than a foot of rain fell in some areas and flooded hundreds of homes and other structures.

"Here we are, already in the next hurricane season, and we're not through the first month, and we're already talking about a storm that, as we speak, is somewhere in the Gulf, just due south of Lake Charles," Edwards said.

Lake Charles, hard hit by both of last year's hurricanes and this year's flooding, was not under a tropical storm warning Thursday night. City crews cleared drains and ditches this week. Donald Jones, a meteorologist for the Lake Charles weather service office, said that there is some uncertainty about the storm's track and that there could be up to 3 inches of rain wherever its rain bands form.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency urged residents to be vigilant and said it had sent more than 90,000 sandbags to the coast. The weather service in Mobile, Alabama, warned of very heavy rain, coastal flooding and winds.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Last year's hurricane season was the busiest on record, with 30 named storms, 11 of which made landfall in the continental United States.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted this year's season to be more active than normal but not likely at the historic level of last year.