Thunderstorms and high winds on the east side of Tropical Storm Claudette battered the Florida Panhandle and much of Alabama on Saturday, as the weather system moved towards the North Carolina coast.
The National Hurricane Center declared Claudette organised enough to qualify as a named storm at 4am on Saturday, well after the storm’s centre of circulation had come ashore southwest of New Orleans.
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By mid-morning it was 75 miles (120 kilometres) north-northeast of the city with winds clocked at 40mph (65km/h). It was moving north-northeast at 14mph (22km/h), and most of the heavy weather was happening far to the north and east of the centre.
After dumping flooding rains north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana and along the Mississippi coast, the storm was inundating the Florida Panhandle and, well inland, a broad expanse of Alabama. The National Weather Service issued a series of possible tornado warnings Saturday morning in north Florida and south Alabama.
Tropical Storm #Claudette continues to produce heavy rains and gusty winds across portions of the northern Gulf coast. A Tropical Storm Watch has now been issued for portions of North Carolina. Visit https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB and https://t.co/SiZo8ohZMN for details. pic.twitter.com/2fM9MOOxMv
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) June 19, 2021
Parts of inland Mississippi and Georgia were getting heavy rain from Claudette as well. And even though the storm was weakening, the National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch for parts of the North Carolina coast, which could feel the effects by Sunday night. The storm was forecast to cross into the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina on Monday, and regain tropical storm strength over open water Tuesday.
In Alabama, possible tornadoes damaged a fishing pier near Dauphin Island and flipped a mobile home near Brewton, said Jason Beaman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Mobile.
Forecasters said Claudette could dump 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 centimetres) of rain in the region, with isolated accumulations of 15 inches (38 centimetres) possible.
“We’ve got little squalls running through. It’ll rain really really hard for a few minutes and slack up for a few minutes,” said Glen Brannan of the Mobile County, Alabama, Emergency Management Agency early Saturday. “Just a lot of water on the roads.”
Residents of Slidell, Louisiana, north of Lake Pontchartrain, reported flooded streets and water in some neighbourhoods as the storm pushed onshore overnight. Slidell police said the flooding had largely receded by daybreak, after swamping as many as 50 cars and trucks with water.
“A few low lying areas are still inundated with water and cannot be reached” with regular vehicles, Slidell police said in a Facebook post. “…We had to rescue multiple people from their flooded cars, along with a woman, who was on her way to the hospital, possibly going into labour.”
Most people riding out the storm still had electricity when they woke up Saturday morning. The website poweroutage.us reported roughly 22,000 outages in total across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
In Louisiana, the threat came a month after spring storms and flooding that were blamed for five deaths, and as parts of the state continued a slow recovery from a brutal 2020 hurricane season.
That included Tropical Storm Cristobal that opened the season last June, hurricanes Laura and Delta that devastated southwest Louisiana, and Hurricane Zeta that downed trees and knocked out power for days in New Orleans in October.
Mexico, while getting rain from the storm in the Gulf, also was threatened by a storm in the Pacific.
Tropical Storm Dolores formed on Friday with landfall expected on its west-central coast on Saturday evening, possibly near hurricane strength, according to the National Hurricane Center.