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Storm clouds created by Hurricane Alex are seen over shrimp boats modified to skim oil in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, U.S., on Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Alex, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, closed oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and caused waves as high as 8 feet in the BP Plc Deepwater Horizon oil spill area. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle/Bloomberg) Storm clouds created by Hurricane Alex are seen over shrimp boats modified to skim oil in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, U.S., on Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Alex, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, closed oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and caused waves as high as 8 feet in the BP Plc Deepwater Horizon oil spill area. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle/Bloomberg)

A mass of thunder and rain in the Gulf of Mexico could become Tropical Storm Barry on Thursday and hit Louisiana as a hurricane this weekend, worsening flooding in New Orleans and causing almost $1 billion in damage.

The system, which was about 115 miles (185 kilometers) southeast of the Mississippi River’s mouth as of 8 a.m. New York time, has already curbed energy production in the Gulf and helped lift oil prices to a seven-week high. It’s also prompted Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency, while hurricane and tropical storm watches are in place along the state’s coastline.

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