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Tropical Storm Claudette Dumping Heavy Rain On The Gulf Coast
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Tropical Storm Claudette Dumping Heavy Rain On The Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tropical Storm Claudette dumped heavy rain across the United States' Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida as it moved inland Saturday, causing flash floods and tornado warnings as it made its way through the Southeast.

At 4 a.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center declared Claudette organized enough to qualify as a named storm, well after the storm's center of circulation had come ashore southwest of New Orleans, and it was north of the city three hours later, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph) as the storm plodded northeast at 12 mph (19 kph).

Tornado warnings were issued from the Mississippi coast to the western Florida panhandle, and residents in Pace, Florida, called 911 to report a possible twister that ripped the roofs off two homes and damaged at least three more.

“No one was hurt,” said Sarah Whitfield, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa County, where the Florida homes were damaged. “We’re just thankful it happened after sunrise,” rather than overnight while people were sleeping.

According to Jason Beaman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Mobile, possible tornadoes damaged a fishing pier on Dauphin Island and flipped a mobile home near Brewton in Alabama.

Forecasters predicted that Claudette would bring 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 centimeters) of rain to the area, with isolated accumulations of 15 inches (38 centimeters) possible.

“We’ve got little squalls running through; it’ll rain really hard for a few minutes and then slack off,” 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, reported flooded streets and water in some neighborhoods as the storm pushed onshore overnight; Slidell police said the flooding had largely receded by daybreak, after swamping up to 50 cars and trucks.

Slidell police said in a Facebook post that “a few low lying areas are still inundated with water and cannot be reached” with regular vehicles. “...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 labor.”

When most people awoke Saturday morning, they still had power, according to the website poweroutage.us, which reported approximately 22,000 outages across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

Forecasters predicted that Claudette's remnants would become a tropical depression by early Sunday as they passed through Alabama and into Georgia and the Carolinas, before crossing into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina on Monday and regaining tropical storm strength over open water on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service's Beaman warned swimmers that dangerous surf would continue to threaten area beaches for several days.

“The Gulf waters will remain dangerous for anyone coming down to the beaches following the storm,” Beaman said.

The storm hit on a weekend when many Gulf Coast residents were planning to celebrate Juneteenth and Father's Day.

After a year of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gulf Coast business owners, from restaurateurs to swamp boat operators, expected an influx of tourist cash.

“My main concern is that it takes away a busy weekend and may just end up being a lot of rain,” Austin Sumrall, owner and chef at White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi, said Friday.

He had 170 reservations for Sunday but was worried that some of them would be canceled.


“We saw, particularly last year, how quickly the rug can be yanked out from under you,” he said.

In Louisiana, the threat came a month after spring storms and flooding killed five people, and as parts of the state struggled to recover from a brutal 2020 hurricane season that included Tropical Storm Cristobal, which opened the season last June, hurricanes Laura and Delta, which devastated southwest Louisiana, and Hurricane Zeta, which knocked out power for days.

Bynum was in Savannah, Georgia, at the time.

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