Cristobal makes landfall on Gulf Coast packing 50-mph winds and heavy rain
Cristobal came ashore on the Gulf Coast as a tropical storm late Sunday afternoon, lashing the Louisiana shoreline with 50-mph sustained winds and gusts even higher. The storm officially made landfall in southeast Louisiana, but tropical storm conditions spread across the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines and heavy rain fell across the Florida Panhandle.
Cristobal regained tropical storm status on Friday as it began moving northward after drenching parts of southern Mexico and Central America with heavy rain. It continued to gain strength as it raced over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico Saturday into Sunday, its forward speed between 12-15 mph. The center of Cristobal, which slowed as it approached the coast, landed between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Grand Isle, Louisiana, about 100 miles south of New Orleans at 5 p.m. CDT on Sunday.
Not only is Cristobal the earliest third named tropical storm system on record in the Atlantic Basin, the National Hurricane Center forecast has it tracking farther west across Wisconsin than any other post-tropical system on record since the mid-1800s.
This radar image shows Cristobal's heavy rain lashing the Gulf Coast on Sunday night, June 7, 2020. (AccuWeather)
The storm has gradually lost intensity over land, weakening to a tropical depression early Monday morning.
Despite weakening, the risk of isolated tornadoes, flooding and locally damaging winds will continue through Monday across the lower Mississippi Valley and central Gulf Coast.
Several tornadoes were reported in Florida over the weekend as Cristobal's outer bands began bringing impacts to the Sunshine State. One tornado came close to impacting downtown Orlando on Saturday.
Rough surf was stirred well ahead of Cristobal's landfall. Two brothers were killed after they were caught in an undertow and swept away by a rip current off the coast of Louisiana on Friday as Cristobal churned in the Gulf of Mexico. The boys, ages 8 and 10, were swimming at a beach in Grand Isle when they were caught and swept away, FOX8 reported.
While rough surf and rip current concerns will gradually lessen as Cristobal moves inland, heavy rain and gusty winds will continue to impact the Gulf Coast states and lower Mississippi Valley early this week.
The risk of storm surge flooding will persist into Monday morning. On Sunday afternoon, 100 employees at the Silver Slipper Casino in Hancock County, Mississippi, were evacuated as floodwaters left them trapped in the building, according to NOLA.com. Emergency responders trekked through 5 feet of water to get the employees to safety. Firefighters returned to the casino on Sunday night to rescue a family staying at the casino's hotel.
This nighttime satellite image shows the swirl of clouds associated with Cristobal over the Gulf Coast states on Sunday night. (NOAA/GOES-EAST)
By 2 a.m. CDT Monday, power outages were affecting around 20,000 customers across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to Poweroutage.us.
Ahead of the storm, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested President Donald Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency for the state effective Friday, June 5.
"We are confident that there will be widespread, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding," Edwards said in a press release. "I anticipate the need for emergency protective measures, evacuations and sheltering for the high-risk areas ... At this time, due to the dangers presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, sheltering activities will need to include non-congregated settings."
"We do not expect the slow movement of Barry from last year and the 24 inches of rain it delivered along the central Gulf Coast," Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather's top hurricane expert, said, referring to a short-lived hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in July of 2019 and triggered widespread flooding.
Even with Cristobal's quicker pace compared to Barry, meteorologists warned that the amount of rainfall projected with the storm could be enough to cause serious flooding problems along and east of the storm track. A general 6-12 inches of rainfall was projected with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 16 inches over southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi.
AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala was on the ground in Waveland, Mississippi, where heavy rainfall on Sunday and the storm surge caused significant coastal flooding.
Drone footage captured above Bay St, Louis, Mississippi, on Sunday showed several coastal homes overwhelmed by floodwaters.
Motorists along the Mississippi coastline in Waveland turned around before becoming stranded in floodwaters from Cristobal's storm surge several hours before it made landfall. (Jonathan Petramala / AccuWeather)
Flooding can occur even where conditions have been rather dry so far this year. In Mobile, Alabama, for example, 21.50 inches of rain fell from Jan. 1 to June 6, or about 76% of normal. By Sunday night, the city was under a flash flooding warning due to heavy rain setting up over the area.
Due to the flooding potential of Cristobal, the storm has been designated a 1 on AccuWeather's RealImpact™ Scale (RI) for Hurricanes.
AccuWeather's RealImpact™ Scale (RI) looks into a broad range of important factors to determine the actual impact the storm will have when it hits land. The scale considers high winds, flooding rain, storm surge and the financial damage and economic impacts. Comparatively, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which has been used by meteorologists for decades, only considers wind speeds.
Winds will remain gusty as Cristobal moves northward through Monday into the lower Mississippi Valley. Gusts will generally range between 30-50 mph with some locations gusting to 60 mph.
Beyond this weekend, Cristobal is forecast to move inland over the Mississippi Valley this week. An area of heavy rain with localized flooding is likely as the storm moves northward and evolves into a tropical rainstorm.
Problems from Cristobal could even continue as far away as the Upper Midwest in terms of flooding rain, strong wind gusts and severe thunderstorms as the tropical storm transitions further into more of a continental storm.
Any flooding could also have an effect on rice crop in the Mississippi Delta, especially since the crop has just emerged. About 65% of the total U.S. rice crop is grown in this region, with 40% of the U.S. crop grown in Arkansas alone.
Hurricane season just began on Monday, and already the Atlantic has set a new record. Cristobal became the earliest third tropical storm on record when it was named on June 2. The storm beat the previous record which stood from 2016 when Colin formed on June 5.
Cristobal was preceded by Arthur and Bertha, which both formed prior to the official start of the season on June 1. And even more threats could soon arise. AccuWeather meteorologists began monitoring another area of showers and thunderstorms in the Atlantic for tropical development late in the week.
"An area of low pressure could form along a frontal boundary within a region of marginally warm water and could turn into a short-lived subtropical or tropical storm system during Tuesday and Wednesday of next week a few hundred miles to the southeast and east of Bermuda," Kottlowski said. A subtropical storm is a system that has both tropical and non-tropical characteristics.
AccuWeather is forecasting a busy tropical season in the Atlantic with 14 to 20 tropical storms, including seven to 11 which could strengthen further into hurricanes. Four to six major hurricanes -- Category 3 or higher -- are predicted.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.Report a Typo
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