Tropical Storm Claudette Expected To Survive Land Journey And Strengthen Over Atlantic
After days of waiting for the storm system to grow into a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center was finally able to update Potential Tropical Cyclone Three to Tropical Storm Claudette. The tempest strengthened into the third tropical storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season around 4 a.m. Saturday even as some of its drenching power had already made landfall east of New Orleans.
"On the forecast track, the system should move farther inland over Louisiana during the next few hours," the NHC's latest advisory explained, "then move across portions of the southeastern states later today and Sunday, and over the western Atlantic Ocean on Monday."
Forecasters projected Claudette would "weaken to a tropical depression by tonight and become a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday. The system is forecast to become a tropical storm again over the western Atlantic Ocean on Monday" and move toward Nova Scotia.
The NHC's latest advisory updated the tropical storm warning for a region stretching from "East of Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa/Walton County line, Florida" and including "Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans."
Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama endured a wet and windy weekend morning. The NHC warned on Saturday that "Claudette is expected to produce heavy rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding across coastal Mississippi and Alabama, and the far western Florida Panhandle through the afternoon."
The system emerged two weeks into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. It also came three weeks after a similar Gulf system made landfall north of Corpus Christi in late May and drenched South Texas.
The storm's emergence was an ominous reminder that even as Texas gradually emerges from under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the old and deadly dangers of tropical weather have returned, only six months after the end of the 2020 hurricane season. Last year was the most active season in recorded history.
In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicted more storms than usual during the 2021 season.
Forecasters anticipated 13 to 20 named storms with top winds at least 39 mph. Of that number, they expected six to 10 would become hurricanes with top winds of least 74 mph.
"This includes three to five major hurricanes ranked as category 3, 4 or 5 with top winds of at least 111 mph," explained Ben Friedman, the acting NOAA administrator, during the May briefing.
NOAA added that climate change has not been linked to the frequency of named storms, but has been linked to an increase in rainfall and overall intensity of storms.
Shane Rosenberg, Brian Kirkpatrick and Fernando Ortiz Jr. contributed to this report.
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