Tropical Storm Claudette forms, threatens to bring dangerous flooding to Gulf Coast

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Tropical Storm Claudette formed early Saturday, threatening to bring heavy rain and "life-threatening" flash flooding across the coast of Mississippi and Alabama and the far western Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters expect flooding to persist through the weekend along the central Gulf Coast, with flood impacts spreading into interior parts of the Southeast.

The weather system was forecast to slam into several states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The system is expected to produce up to 12 inches of rain through the weekend along the central U.S. Gulf Coast. It was located about 60 miles south-s of Morgan City, Louisiana, at 10 p.m. CDT Friday with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. It was moving north at 13 mph and was likely to approach the north-central Gulf Coast by Friday night or early Saturday, the Hurricane Center previously warned.

It's the third storm of the 2021 season that began this month.

Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 at 11 a.m. June 18, 2021.
Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 at 11 a.m. June 18, 2021.

Normally dry areas near the coast may be flooded by rising waters. There is a high risk of rip currents and high surf at beaches in affected areas near Gulf Coast shores starting Friday. Other potential weather threats may include brief tornadoes, minor coastal flooding and minimal tropical force winds of between 40 to 45 miles per hour.

The weather system began as a broad area of low pressure in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and has been producing widespread but disorganized showers and thunderstorms, according to the National Hurricane Center. It had a high chance of strengthening enough to become a tropical storm or tropical depression by Saturday as it moves northeastward across the southeast United States. It is expected to weaken as it moves across Gulf Coast states.

The storm was expected to approach the coastline of Louisiana Friday night, where the Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency. Louisiana, which was hit hard by heavy rain and flooding last month, may see up to 20 inches of rain over three days.

Edwards tweeted that the state's office of emergency preparedness has activated its crisis action team and is ready to use state resources to aid in storm response efforts.

In Florida, the Pensacola area was bracing for heavy rainfall — as much as 8 to 10 inches — between Friday and Saturday. The tropical system may cause dangerous surf conditions and flooding of roads and campgrounds, some of which have seen mandatory evacuations and cancellations. High winds may also push sand onto roads, making them unsafe for travel.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted 13 to 20 named storms will develop this season. This number includes tropical storms, which contain wind speeds of 39 mph or higher. Storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph.

To prepare for a possible tropical storm, experts recommend restocking disaster kits to have medications and at least seven days of nonperishable food and three gallons of water for each person and pet. You can also prepare your yard by removing loose items, clearing loose and clogged rain gutters, and trimming trees and shrubs.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Diane Pantaleo and staff, Pensacola News Journal; Roberto Villalpando, Austin American-Statesman; Doyle Rice and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY.

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tropical Storm Claudette form, Gulf Coast path to get rain

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