Tropical Storm Claudette brings heavy rain and floods to US Gulf coast

A weekend that was supposed to be filled with celebrations of Juneteenth and Father’s Day has turned dreary in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, where Tropical Storm Claudette has brought wind, heavy rain and flooding to a region where some have sandbags still left over from last year’s record-breaking hurricane season.

Claudette formed on Saturday morning along the Gulf coast, 关于 45 英里 (75 kilometres) south-west of New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center announced in a 4am advisory.

The centre of Claudette was located inland, and the storm was forecast to weaken into a depression by Saturday night.

With virus restrictions loosened and summer near, business owners across the Gulf coast had been anticipating an influx of tourist cash after a year of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic and relentless storms. But those hopes have been dimmed by the storm.

“My biggest concern is that it drives away a busy weekend, and may just end up being a lot of rain,” said Austin Sumrall, the owner and chef at the White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi. He had 170 reservations on his books for Sunday, but was concerned some patrons would cancel. “We saw, especially last year, the rug can get jerked out from under you pretty quickly,“ 他说.

The storm was expected to dump anywhere from five to 10 inches (13 to 25cm) of rain along parts of the Gulf Coast – even 15 inches (38cm) in isolated areas, according to forecasters at the hurricane centre.

Flooding had already begun overnight Friday into Saturday, with local reports of high water over roads and stranded vehicles. Flash flood warnings dotted the coast while flood watches were in effect well inland for parts of Mississippi, 阿拉巴马州, 佛罗里达, and central and northern Georgia.

路易斯安那州, the threat came a month after spring storms and flooding that were blamed for five deaths, and as parts of the state continued a slow recovery from a brutal 2020 hurricane season.

That included Tropical Storm Cristobal that opened the season last June, hurricanes Laura and Delta that devastated south-west Louisiana, and Hurricane Zeta that downed trees and knocked out power for days in New Orleans in October.

Claudette had maximum sustained winds of 45mph (75km/h). It was moving north-north-east Saturday morning at 12mph (19km/h).

“I hope it just gets in and gets out,” said Greg Paddie, the manager of Tacky Jack’s, a restaurant at Alabama’s Orange Beach.

Paddie said the restaurant still had sandbags left over from its preparations for last year’s Hurricane Sally. That September storm, blamed for two deaths, threw ships on to dry land and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and in the Florida Panhandle.

Disappointment was evident in the voice of Seneca Hampton, an organiser of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He spent weeks arranging food trucks, vendors face painting and free hamburgers and hot dogs for the event which was highly anticipated because last year’s was cancelled due to the pandemic and because of Juneteenth’s new designation as a federal holiday.

“It’s something that means a lot to people,” said Hampton.

The Gautier event was postponed until next month. A Juneteenth event in Selma, 阿拉巴马州, was postponed until August.