Photos of Tropical Storm Barry’s Crawl Toward the Louisiana Coast

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana residents hunkered down on Saturday morning as Tropical Storm Barry punched its way slowly and ominously toward the coast, causing widespread power failures, more than a dozen emergency rescues and pounding rainfall in some communities.

The major storm, the first to strike the country this season, was proving to be a misshapen brute inching erratically, but inevitably, toward the communities west of New Orleans.

In New Orleans, fears that the storm could dump more water on an already-swollen Mississippi River, overtopping levees and straining the multibillion-dollar flood protection system put in place since Hurricane Katrina struck 14 summers ago, subsided slightly on Saturday. The river was predicted to crest at 17.1 feet by Monday. Though flood stage for the city is at 17 feet, most of the fortresslike levees and flood walls are at least 20 feet high.

[Read our live coverage of Hurricane Barry.]

Federal, state and local officials monitored the storm at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday. The authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders in communities in several coastal parishes.

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CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Late on Friday, towering waves crashed in New Orleans along Lake Pontchartrain as residents and officials worried about whether the city’s levees and pumps would hold in the storm.

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CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

Bourbon Street, though far from deserted on a drizzly Friday night, felt more like it does on a drizzly weekday. French Quarter bars continued to serve scattered revelers and tipplers, but many restaurants were closed, and some were heavily sandbagged in anticipation of the deluge. A man danced on Bourbon Street as others watched.

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CreditSeth Herald/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

New Orleans officials advised most residents to shelter in place, rather than leave town. On Friday afternoon, employees boarded up a business on Bourbon Street.

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CreditJonathan Bachman/Reuters

Louisiana Highway 70 was lined with sandbags Friday afternoon near Morgan City, La.

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CreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times

In Morgan City, workers filled sandbags this week to distribute to elderly residents. The coastal city was expecting a direct hit but the storm shifted west by Saturday morning.

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CreditBryan Thomas for The New York Times

In the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, which abuts the Mississippi River, residents prepared for the worst.

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CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

But some found time to cool off in Lake Pontchartrain before the storm.

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CreditDan Anderson/EPA, via Shutterstock

Richard Fausset contributed reporting from New Orleans.

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