Tropical storm Cindy is drenching the northern Gulf Coast and could leave behind more than a foot of rain in some areas before lifting northward toward Tennessee and Kentucky — where the deluge will continue.
The National Hurricane Center warns that the storm “could produce life-threatening flash flooding” along the northern Gulf Coast, unloading widespread rainfall amounts of six to nine inches, and isolated totals over a foot.
Locations most likely to witness the heaviest rainfall include southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western part of the Florida Panhandle.
As of Wednesday morning, Cindy was positioned 170 miles south of Morgan City, La. Tropical storm warnings spanned from San Luis Pass, Tex., to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border late today or tonight, although the heaviest rains and strongest winds are expected to occur east of where landfall occurs.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds were about 50 mph and, while isolated gusts up to 60 mph are possible as the storm moves ashore, potentially excessive rainfall totals over a large area are its biggest threat.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Mobile, Ala., characterized the flood threat as “extreme” in the area around both Mobile and Pensacola, Fla.
Already, some areas have seen up to four to seven inches of rain in this area and flash-flood warnings are in effect through late Wednesday afternoon. Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in southern Mississippi had recorded 7.19 inches of rain through early Wednesday morning.
While forecasters are most concerned about the rainfall, Cindy poses several other hazards:
- Large waves and dangerous rip currents: Six- to nine-foot breakers are likely along the northern Gulf Coast through Wednesday night.
- Storm surge: As the center of the storm comes inland tonight, waters along the coast east of the center are forecast one to three feet above what is normally dry ground — from roughly southeast Louisiana to the western Florida panhandle. This could cause minor to moderate coastal flooding.
- Tornadoes and waterspouts: A few tornadoes are possible within thunderstorms moving in off the Gulf. On Wednesday morning, a tornado passed through Fort Walton, Fla.
Storm impacts along the Gulf Coast should wane Thursday as the remnant circulation heads north toward northern Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. These areas can expect three to five inches of rainfall.
Friday into Saturday, the storm’s remnants will probably become linked with a front headed toward the East Coast, potentially enhancing rainfall in the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic before pushing offshore.
Cindy, the third tropical storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, formed about eight weeks ahead of normal according to Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert. McNoldy says that beyond Cindy, there are no other areas of disturbed weather primed for tropical development in the foreseeable future.