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Rising water poses the deadliest threat in major storms -- and New Orleans is already flooded - CNN

Nicole Chavez | 7 Days

(CNN) As Tropical Storm Barry continues spinning toward the Gulf Coast, authorities fear that a massive storm surge could destroy houses, flood cities and kill indiscriminately in Louisiana.

"There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along the coast of southern and southeastern Louisiana," the National Weather Service said.

Barry is expected to make landfall as a major storm on Saturday. As in past hurricanes, the greatest danger may not be the high-speed winds, but the water rushing in from the ocean.

What exactly is storm surge?

The rise in water levels, known as storm surge, happens when winds from a fierce storm push water up and onto shore.

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