Hurricane Barry approaches Gulf Coast: PHOTOS

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Carrying “off the chart” amounts of moisture, sprawling Barry strengthened into a hurricane Saturday as it crawled slowly toward shore, knocking out power on the Gulf Coast and dumping heavy rains that could last for days in a test of flood-prevention efforts implemented after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 14 years ago.

Barry had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane by Saturday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), the National Hurricane Center said. Storms become hurricanes when their winds reach 74 mph (120 kph) or higher.

Officials predicted Barry would make landfall near Morgan City, west of New Orleans. The small town had an overnight curfew that expired Saturday morning, after on-and-off rain and power outages. People used cellphones to see in the dark, and opened doors and windows to let the warm, sticky tropical air circulate.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.