FILE - This file satellite image provided by NASA and taken by U.S. astronaut Christina Koch on Thursday, July 11, 2019 at the International Space Station, shows Tropical Storm Barry as it bears down on Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico. Barry could harm the Gulf Coast environment in a number of ways. But scientists say it’s hard to predict how severe the damage will be. (Christina Koch/NASA via AP, File)

Tropical storm, river flooding hammer Gulf environment

July 12, 2019 - 9:28 pm

Tropical Storm Barry could harm the Gulf coast environment in a number of ways. But scientists say it's hard to predict how severe the damage will be.

That's because three distinct factors are coming together at once. The storm is expected to create a surge of up to 3 feet (1 meter) and bring torrential downpours. And Mississippi River levels are at record-setting highs.

Experts say the storm could disrupt the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" by churning the waters and restoring oxygen. Yet in the long run, it's likely to worsen the problem by increasing flows of nutrients such as nitrogen into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf.

The freshwater surge also could affect dolphins and some types of fish, while saturated ground could help storm winds topple trees.

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