Tropical Storm Claudette: Flash flood warning for Mississippi, Alabama, Florida
According to the National Hurricane Center, Claudette could yield life-threatening flash floods across coastal Mississippi and Alabama, even as far as the western Florida Panhandle
Tropical Storm Claudette caused a downpour across the central Gulf Coast on Saturday morning, threatening flooding in various parts of Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama after thrashing Louisiana.
The National Hurricane Center revealed how the tropical system had a landfall in southeastern Louisiana early Saturday. By 7 am CT, the storm was centered about 30 miles north of New Orleans with sustained winds of 45 mph. According to the NHC, Claudette could yield life-threatening flash floods across coastal Mississippi and Alabama, even as far as the western Florida Panhandle through Saturday, June 19.
It said that by the storm's end, a total of 5-15 inches of rain could fall across parts of the central Gulf Coast. That said, some regions between new Orleans and Mobile have already seen 4-8 inches of rain since Friday, according to CNN.
Video from CNN affiliate WLOX showed that floodwater was already washing over rural streets by sunrise Saturday in the coastal Mississippi areas on either side of Biloxi. Meanwhile, there was shallow flooding in a neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, footage from another CNN affiliate WVUE showed Saturday morning.
The NHC said that high winds were also battering parts of the region. Tropical-storm-force winds of at least 39 mph blew over more than 200 miles from the center. However, it is unclear whether the Claudette system was a tropical storm when it made landfall. The NHC had announced around 4 am CT Saturday that a gulf storm previously called a "potential tropical cyclone" had become Claudette and that it was centered near Houma, Louisiana.
Those residing in the region have been preparing for the storm over the last couple of days. Cara McArthy of New Orleans moved her Toyota Prius to higher ground. "We just never know what's gonna happen. So (we're) just hoping for the best. We've moved out cars, but we can't move our house," she told CNN affiliate WDSU. "We've got our sandbags ready. We've got our tarp ready and we're just... hoping for the best."
TS #CLAUDETTE is born—after landfall in #Louisiana. NHC's 4 am CDT advisory puts the center over Houma (where the star is)—but the weather is in another corner of the universe. Just... wow. What a mess. #freakshow #LetMeCallYouATaxi pic.twitter.com/7ZV38PVPjf— Josh Morgerman (@iCyclone) June 19, 2021
Business owners across the Gulf coast were optimistic about an influx of tourists after a year of lost revenue due to the pandemic. However, those hopes have been dimmed by the deluge.
“My biggest concern is that it drives away a busy weekend, and may just end up being a lot of rain,” Austin Sumrall, owner of the White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi, told The Guardian. He said he had 170 reservations confirmed for Sunday, but he was concerned some patrons would cancel. “We saw, especially last year, the rug can get jerked out from under you pretty quickly,” he said.
Seneca Hampton, an organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, was understandably disappointed after spending weeks arranging food trucks, face painting, and free hamburgers and hot dogs for the event.
Many were looking forward to the event after it was canceled last year due to the pandemic and they also wanted to celebrate Juneteenth’s new designation as a federal holiday. “It’s something that means a lot to people,” Hampton told The Guardian.