Tropical Storm Cristobal advances toward US Gulf Coast

Crews from the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East close the Bayou Road flood gate in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana Credit: Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/AP

A re-energised Tropical Storm Cristobal advanced toward the US Gulf Coast on Saturday, bringing with it the heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America.

After weakening to a tropical depression while moving over land in Mexico’s Gulf coast, Cristobal headed back into the southern Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday and powered back up into a tropical storm.

Forecasters said it would arrive on US soil late on Sunday but was not expected to grow into a hurricane.

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami said the storm was expected to slowly strengthen until it makes landfall.

Outer rain bands from the storm were already moving across parts of the Gulf Coast on Saturday evening.

We are confident that there will be widespread, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

Cristobal’s maximum sustained winds had strengthened to 50 mph by early on Saturday and it was moving north at 12 mph.

The Hurricane Centre said the storm could cause heavy rains from East Texas to Florida this weekend and into early next week.

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

In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency to prepare for the storm’s possible arrival.

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

On Friday, he asked President Donald Trump to declare a pre-landfall emergency for the state due to the storm’s threat.

“We are confident that there will be widespread, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding,” Mr Edwards said in a letter to the White House.

“I anticipate the need for emergency protective measures, evacuations, and sheltering for the high-risk areas. The length of possible inundation is unknown and will likely require post-flood activities.”

Cristobal formed this week in the Bay of Campeche from the remnants of Tropical Storm Amanda, which had sprung up last weekend in the eastern Pacific and hit Central America.

The two storms combined to soak the region with as much as 35 inches of rain in some areas over the past week.

At least 30 deaths have been attributed to the two storms and the flooding and landslides they unleashed.