As Cristobal starts to move in, folks in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, prepared for the worst on the weekend of June 6.


MONROE, La. –  Tropical Storm Cristobal is expected to slowly strengthen Saturday night, moving toward a likely landfall on the Gulf Coast Sunday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Saturday.

Cristobal was upgraded from a tropical depression to a tropical storm over Mexico on Tuesday, becoming the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. The National Hurricane Center said Cristobal’s maximum sustained winds had strengthened to 50 mph Saturday evening. The storm was centered about 235 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Cristobal is not expected to become a hurricane, which typically have wind speeds of 75 mph.

“The tropical storm-force winds extend outward at least 24 miles from the center,” meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said. “That’s a big storm.” Landfall and tropical cyclones also trigger the possibility of tornadoes, Dennis cautioned.

Heavy rainfall is expected this weekend and early next week in areas of the Mid-South and Gulf Coast from East Texas to Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. Flooding is predicted to reach as high as five feet above ground level along the mouth of the Mississippi River and Ocean Springs, up to four feet along the Morgan City shoreline and between one and three feet along the rest of the gulf. 

“We put our disaster teams and 70 mobile feeding units on standby,” Salvation Army Southern Territory Disaster Coordinator Jeff Jellets said. “We’re staying in close coordination with local officials, monitoring the storm path and, once the storm makes landfall, getting damage assessments.” 

In response to COVID-19, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the CDC and public health officials have worked together to increase sanitary requirements at disaster facilities. Temperature screenings, reduced personnel, masks, increased cleaning, and transparent barriers are to be set up to encourage social distancing, according to FEMA’s manual on COVID-19 during the hurricane season. 

Hurricane season officially began Monday. 

“This could be a very active season,” AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said. “The more active the season, the more likely we’ll have at least one, two or three major events.”

Federal forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month predicted as many as 19 named storms would form, of which as many as 10 will be hurricanes. It’s just one of many forecasts that predict an unusually busy season in 2020. 

GRAPHIC:USA TODAY’s storm tracker

With Cristobal, a tropical storm watch was posted for the northern Gulf of Mexico coast from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border.

“Now is the time to make your plans, which should include the traditional emergency items along with masks and hand sanitizer as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic,” Edwards said in a statement released Thursday.

What’s changed: How to prepare for hurricane season in the COVID-19 pandemic

Early Saturday, dangerous flooding was already occurring in portions of Mexico and Central America, according to the hurricane center.

A storm surge warning is in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Tropical storm-force winds are possible Saturday night along the northern Gulf Coast, from southeastern Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle. 

Contributing: Associated Press; Doyle Rice and Joel Shannon, USA TODAY


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