Tropical storm warning extends to Florida panhandle as system chugs through Gulf of Mexico

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The National Hurricane Center’s tropical storm warning extended Friday morning to include parts of Florida’s panhandle as the system now designated as Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 makes its way north.

The warning is in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border and extended to include the Okaloosa-Walton county line, the NHC said in its 5 a.m. update. The warning includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans.

Strengthening is predicted, and the system should develop into a tropical or subtropical storm later today, the NHC said.

It has a 90% chance of developing within the next 48 hours, and the chances remain the same through the next five days. The system will approach the north-central Gulf Coast late Friday or early Saturday and turn northeast after landfall. Maximum winds are at 35 mph, but strengthening is in the forecast through Friday.

As of 5 a.m., the system was located 310 miles south of Morgan City, La. and 435 miles south-southwest of Mobile Alabama while moving north at 14 mph.

Rainfall totals could fall between 4 and 8 inches and as high as 12 inches in some areas starting Friday, the NHC said.

The NHC warned of flash, urban and small stream flooding as a result of the heavy rainfall and said river flooding could occur as the storm hits areas with elevated rivers.

Tornadoes could occur across coastal areas of Louisiana starting Friday afternoon, and southern areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could see tornadic activity from Friday night into Saturday.

Storm surge could reach 2 to 3 feet from Intracoastal City to the Mississippi-Alabama border and at Vermilion Bay and Lake Borgne. Other areas of Louisiana, from Cameron to Intracoastal City and Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, and the area between the Mississippi/Alabama and Alabama/Florida borders could see between 1 and 3 feet of storm surge, the NHC said.

“Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin Friday in areas near and well to the east of the center along portions of the central Gulf Coast from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the Alabama/Florida border, including New Orleans,” the NHC said.

If the system becomes a tropical storm, it will be the third named storm of the year, Claudette. The storm would need to become organized, develop a closed circulation and produce winds of 39 mph or more to gain tropical storm status.

“Given the current and anticipated structure of this system, users should not focus on the exact track of the center, as rainfall and wind hazards are likely to extend well east of the center and arrive well in advance of landfall,” the NHC said.

The Hurricane Hunters flew a 53rd Weather Reconnaissance WC-130J aircraft out of Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. in its first mission of the 2021 Hurricane Season on Thursday.

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