Tropical Storm Claudette brings rain and flooding to Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A weekend that was to be filled with June 15 and Father’s Day celebrations turned gloomy on the Louisiana and Mississippi coast, where Tropical Storm Claudette brought wind, heavy rains and flooding in an area where some still have leftover sandbags from last year’s record hurricane season.
Claudette formed on Saturday morning along the Gulf Coast, about 75 kilometers southwest of New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center said in a 4 a.m. advisory.
Claudette’s center was located inland and the storm was expected to weaken to a low on Saturday night.
With virus restrictions eased and summer approaching, Gulf Coast business owners – everything from restaurateurs to boat operators in the swamps – had expected an influx of tourist money after a year. lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and relentless storms. But those hopes have been tarnished by the storm.
“My biggest concern is that it takes away a busy weekend and that it could end up being a lot of rain,” said Austin Sumrall, owner and chef of White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi. He had 170 reservations on his books for Sunday, but was worried some customers would cancel. “We have seen, especially last year, that the carpet can be ripped out from under you quite quickly,” he said.
The storm was expected to dump 5 inches (13 centimeters) to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain along parts of the Gulf Coast – even 15 inches (38 centimeters) in isolated areas, according to forecasters from the Hurricane Center .
The flooding had already started overnight from Friday to Saturday, with local reports of high water on the roads and stranded vehicles. Flash flood warnings dotted the coast as flood watches were in effect well inland for parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and central and northern Georgia.
Louisiana swamp tour boat captain Darrin Coulon spent Friday securing boats at the docks, having already canceled popular weekend excursions.
“I’m sure the region will be flooded,” Coulon lamented.
Dealing with tropical storms is nothing new for Coulon, who jokingly said he came from the “cone of uncertainty”, referring to a term used by forecasters.
In Louisiana, the threat came a month after spring storms and flooding that were responsible for five deaths, and as parts of the state continued to slowly recover from a brutal 2020 hurricane season. Tropical Storm Cristobal which opened the season last June, Hurricanes Laura and Delta which devastated southwest Louisiana and Hurricane Zeta which cut down trees and cut electricity for days in New Brunswick. Orleans in October.
Claudette had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km / h). It was moving north-northeast on Saturday morning at 12 mph (19 km / h).
“I hope he comes in and out,” said Greg Paddie, manager of Tacky Jack’s, a restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Paddie said the restaurant still had sandbags left over from preparations for Hurricane Sally last year. This September storm, blamed for two deaths, threw ships on land and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
The disappointment was evident in the voice of Seneca Hampton, organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He spent weeks organizing free food trucks, vendors, a bounce house, makeup, burgers, and free hot dogs for the event. This was eagerly awaited as last year was canceled due to the pandemic and due to the re-designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
“It’s something that means a lot to people, and there were some people who were disappointed, like ‘I already had in mind that I was coming over there to celebrate,'” said Hampton.
The Gautier event has been postponed until next month. A June 10 event in Selma, Alabama was postponed to August.
Clusters of storms were dumping up to 10 centimeters of rain per hour on Friday night along parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s office in Slidell, Louisiana. .
A tropical storm warning has spread from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa County / Walton County border in the Florida panhandle.
Meanwhile, Mexico was threatened by a storm in the Pacific. Tropical Storm Dolores formed on Friday and is expected to hit its west-central coast on Saturday evening, possibly near hurricane force, according to the National Hurricane Center.