Tropical Storm Barry could breach New Orleans’ river levees. Here’s how the levee system works and how much it can withstand.

Tropical Storm Barry is strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico as it heads toward the Louisiana coast. It’s forecasted to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane early tomorrow morning. A hurricane warning is in effect for New Orleans and other parts of the Louisiana coast. Forecasters say the Mississippi River could rise to levels of 19 feet — the highest since 1950. It could the biggest test ever for the river levees, which may be as low as 18 feet in some areas. Levee systems use earthen embankments, steel or concrete flood-walls, and pumps to hold back

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