Tropical Storm Claudette brings rain and flooding to the Gulf Coast: NPR


Residents in lowland Hancock County move their vehicles, lawnmowers, ATVs and boats to higher ground in Waveland, Mississippi as the tropical system approaches Friday, June 18, 2021.

Justin Mitchell/AFP

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Justin Mitchell/AFP

Residents in lowland Hancock County move their vehicles, lawnmowers, ATVs and boats to higher ground in Waveland, Mississippi as the tropical system approaches Friday, June 18, 2021.

Justin Mitchell/AFP

NEW ORLEANS (Associated Press) — A weekend that was supposed to be filled with celebrations for Bioney and Father’s Day has turned dreary on the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi, as Tropical Storm Claudette brought winds, heavy rain and flooding to an area where some still had sandbags. The remainder of last year’s record hurricane season.

Claudette formed Saturday morning along the Gulf Coast, about 45 miles (75 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center announced on a 4 AM advisory.

Claudette’s center was inland, and the storm was expected to weaken to a depression by Saturday night.

With virus restrictions loosening and summer approaching, business owners across the Gulf Coast — everyone from restaurants to swamp boat operators — were expecting an influx of tourist cash after a year of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic and relentless storms. But these hopes have been weakened by the storm.

“My biggest worry is that he’s driving away on a busy weekend, and he might end up getting really rainy,” said Austin Sommerall, owner and chef at White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi. He had 170 reservations on his books for Sunday, but was worried about some sponsors being cancelled. “We’ve seen, especially last year, that a rug can slip out from under you very quickly,” he said.

The storm was expected to dump anywhere from 5 inches (13 cm) to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain along parts of the Gulf Coast — up to 15 inches (38 cm) in isolated areas, according to forecasters at the Hurricane Center.

The flooding had already begun Friday night and into Saturday, with local reports of water rising above roads and stranded vehicles. Flash flood warnings were posted on the coast while flood watch hours were in effect well inland for parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and central and northern Georgia.

Louisiana tour boat captain Darren Colon spent Friday securing boats to the docks, having already canceled his popular weekend tours.

“I’m sure the area will see some flooding,” Colon lamented.

Dealing with tropical storms is nothing new for Kowloon, who said he jokingly tells people it’s from the “cone of uncertainty,” referring to a term used by forecasters.

In Louisiana, the threat came a month after spring storms and flooding were blamed for five deaths, and as parts of the state continued to make a slow recovery from the brutal 2020 hurricane season. This included Tropical Storm Cristobal, which opened the season last June, and Hurricanes Laura and Delta that devastated southwestern Louisiana, and Hurricane Zeta that downed trees and shut down electricity for several days in New Orleans in October.

Claudette had maximum winds of 45 mph (75 kph). It was moving north-northeast Saturday morning at 12 mph (19 kph).

“Hopefully he’ll come in and out,” said Greg Buddy, manager of Tacky Jack’s in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Paddy said the restaurant still has sandbags left over from its preparations for last year’s Hurricane Sally. That September storm, which caused two deaths, dumped ships on dry land and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and in the Florida Panhandle.

The disappointment was palpable in the voice of Seneca Hampton, organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gauthier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He spent weeks arranging food carts, vendors, a bounce house, and face painting, free hamburgers and hot dogs for the event. It was highly anticipated because last year was canceled due to the pandemic and due to the new Juneteenth designation as a federal holiday.

“It’s something that means a lot to people,” Hampton said, “and there were people who panicked, like ‘It was already on my mind that I was going out there to celebrate.

The Gautier event has been postponed until next month. The Juneteenth event in Selma, Alabama, has been postponed until August.

By Friday evening, storm groups were dumping up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain per hour along parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, said Benjamin Schott, a responsible meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Slidell, Louisiana.

A tropical storm warning extended from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa Walton County line in the Florida Panhandle.

Meanwhile, Mexico was threatened by a storm in the Pacific Ocean. Tropical Storm Dolores formed Friday with landfall expected on the Central West Coast Saturday evening, possibly near hurricane strength, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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