The National Hurricane Center on Thursday downgraded Tropical Storm Cindy to a tropical depression after it made landfall at 3 a.m. near the Texas-Louisiana border, causing widespread street and river flooding in South Mississippi.
“Even though Cindy has made landfall and is beginning to lose its strength, the threat to Mississippi is not over,” Lee Smithson, executive director of MEMA, said in a news release. “Our focus continues to be on flooding issues not only for our coastal residents, but now our residents in North Mississippi, the Delta and North Mississippi region. They could see large amounts of rainfall as the system shifts to the northeast in the coming days.”
Cindy was weakening as it headed north through Louisiana toward Arkansas but a broad circulation around the system swept moist Gulf air over the South, fueling bands of strong weather and pushing up coastal tides.
Authorities warn driving rains could still cause dangerous flash floods. “That continues to be the threat,” said Ken Graham, of the National Weather Service Office near New Orleans. “Not only around the center of Cindy. The impact of rain can be hundreds of miles away.”
National Weather Service forecasters said the storm had dumped from 2 to 10 inches of rain on various spots along the Gulf Coast from southern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle as of Wednesday.
The Mississippi Coast received some of the heaviest rain. In Gulfport, Mississippi, Kathleen Bertucci said heavy rains Wednesday sent about 10 inches of water into her business selling granite countertops. “It’s pretty disgusting, but I don’t have flood insurance because they took me out of the flood zone,” said Bertucci, whose store is near a bayou.
In Ocean Springs, Mississippi, there was another worry in a neighborhood where streets and a few homes had flooded Thursday.
“One of our safety concerns is alligators,” said local neighborhood watch organizer Erin West. “We have several alligators in the nearby ponds and it’s springtime and they like to move around during springtime and everything.”
Most rivers across the three counties are above flood stage, and the weather service extended flood warnings for Coast rivers through the weekend.
There also is a coastal flood advisory through 4 p.m. Friday and the weather service warns onshore winds of 25-30 mph will keep tides elevated by 1-3 feet through Friday afternoon. Small craft advisories also will remain in effect through Friday afternoon.
Elsewhere, a suspected tornado near Birmingham, Alabama, flattened businesses and injured one person Thursday, while the mayor of a coastal Louisiana town urged residents to evacuate ahead of a rising tide.
A liquor store and a fast-food restaurant were among the damaged businesses in Fairfield, Alabama, west of Birmingham, said meteorologist Jason Holmes of the National Weather Service. Dean Argo, a spokesman for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said one employee of the liquor store was hurt.
Holmes also told The Associated Press that trees were down and buildings were reported damaged along the Interstate 20 corridor on the western outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama’s most populous city. The weather service had issued tornado warnings earlier for the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa areas, and Gov. Kay Ivey had urged state residents to be alert for dangerous weather.
In the low-lying Louisiana town of Lafitte, south of New Orleans, Mayor Tim Kerner urged residents in and around the town to seek higher ground because of rising water.
“The tide’s rolling in. It’s getting to a dangerous level,” Kerner said. Streets and yards in the town were covered and Kerner worried that homes, even those in parts of town protected by levees, might be flooded. “I’m hoping not,” he added.
“Certainly it’s not been as bad as we feared. That’s the good news, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in Baton Rouge. “The bad news is it’s not over yet.”
As a slow-moving tropical storm that formed Tuesday in the Gulf, Cindy was blamed for one death: authorities said a 10-year-old Missouri boy vacationing with his family on the Alabama coast was struck by a log washed in by a large wave. Cindy also caused widespread coastal highway and street flooding and several short-lived tornadoes, but no other deaths.
In Louisiana, Edwards said two fishermen who were reported missing in coastal St. Mary Parish were located and rescued Thursday morning. Off Texas, the U.S. Coast Guard helped the four-member crew of a shrimp trawler limp back to shore at Freeport after the crew radioed in distress amid fears of sinking early Wednesday.
Digital Editor Kate Magandy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
River flood warnings
Biloxi River (near Lyman)
Latest stage: 16.3 feet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 12 feet
Forecast: Fall below flood stage by early Saturday morning
Latest stage: 10.9 feet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 8 feet
Forecast: Fall below flood stage by Sunday morning
Latest stage: 12.6 feet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 8 feet
Forecast: Fall below flood stage Friday night
Latest stage: 6.1 feet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 6 feet
Forecast: Fall below flood stage by midnight Friday
Pearl River (near Pearl River)
Latest stage: 13.6 feet at 4 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 14 feet
Forecast: Rise to near 15.5 feet by Tuesday afternoon
Pascagoula River (at Graham Ferry)
Latest stage: 16.2 feet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 16 feet
Forecast: Rise to near 18 feet by Monday evening
Latest stage: 7.4 feet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday
Flood stage: 8 feet
Forecast: Rise to near 10 feet by Sunday afternoon
National Weather Service