Tropical Storm Claudette close to forming. Part of Florida Panhandle now under warning

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Tropical Storm Claudette is forecast to form and strike the Louisiana coast overnight Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm could bring flooding and heavy rain to the region over the weekend, including 12 inches in some places.

A tropical storm warning issued Friday morning extends east from Morgan City, Louisiana to the Okaloosa and Walton counties line in the northwestern Florida Panhandle.

As of the 5 p.m. Friday advisory, the disturbance, called “potential tropical cyclone three” was moving north near 16 mph in the Gulf of Mexico. It had reached tropical storm level winds at 45 mph, but the NHC did not categorize it as a tropical storm yet because it lacked a defined center.

Forecasters expect the disturbance will strengthen to a subtropical or Tropical Storm Claudette — the third named storm of the season — sometime Friday. It’s then forecast to make landfall in Louisiana late Friday.

The National Weather Service predicts the northern Gulf Coast will be drenched with rain over the weekend.
The National Weather Service predicts the northern Gulf Coast will be drenched with rain over the weekend.

Forecasters say they don’t expect the storm to strengthen much past a Tropical Storm, but they noted that the effects of the storm (like flooding and heavy rain) will extend out past the official track. Tropical storm-force winds extend 205 miles from the center.

Storm surge predictions for the area are low, around one to three feet, and there’s a potential for some tornadoes. But the real threat is rain, forecasters say. The region could see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated maximums of a full foot.

By Saturday evening, the hurricane center predicts Claudette will weaken back to a depression as it trails off to the northeast, toward Georgia.

NOAA has called for another active hurricane season, with 13 to 20 named storms. Since neither Tropical Storm Ana nor Bill made landfall, Claudette would be the first this season.