National Hurricane Center forecasters warned people on the Gulf Coast to brace for heavy rain and dangerous flash floods as Tropical Storm Cindy came closer Tuesday night and its winds picked up.
In their 11 p.m. advisory Tuesday, forecasters said the storm, located about 230 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana, was packing sustained winds of 60 mph, up from 45 mph. The storm extended 275 miles as it moved through the Gulf, near the Florida Panhandle and toward Texas. It was moving at a speed of 7 mph.
The storm could trigger life-threatening flash floods. It’s expected to dump between 6 and 9 inches of rain from the Florida Panhandle to Texas over the next two days. Some areas could get up to 12 inches of rain.
Storm surge ranging from 1 foot to 3 feet is also possible for parts of the Gulf Coast.
Late Tuesday, a Tropical Storm warning was in effect for San Luis Pass, Texas, to the Alabama-Florida border, metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.
The storm was expected to hit the Louisiana coast late Wednesday, moving inland over southeastern Texas on Thursday.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged residents in northwest Florida to be on alert for flooding and contacted local emergency officials Monday night. The Florida Department of Transportation has pumps on hand and will send them where needed to deal with road flooding, he said in a statement.
“While Florida is not expected to see major impacts from this storm, flooding could occur and I urge all Floridians and visitors to be cautious and visit FloridaDisaster.org to get a plan and be prepared,” Scott said in the statement.
Winds are not expected to gain speed as the storm encounters wind shear, but flooding poses a far bigger threat, with heavy rain extending far north and east of the storm’s center. Because Cindy covers such a large area, forecasters urged residents not to focus on the track forecast. A tropical storm warning stretched from east of New Orleans to west of Galveston.
In flood-prone parts of the Gulf Coast, so much rain could have dangerous consequences. A no-name storm last year dumped 20 inches of rain across southeastern Louisiana in just 15 hours. At least 13 people died and more than 140,000 homes were damaged.
In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Bret fizzled into a tropical wave. The remnants of the storm continued to move to the northwest at about 22 mph, with sustained winds tied to squalls near the storm’s center blowing at about 40 mph. All warnings and watches were canceled.
As Cindy churned northward, cruise lines began rerouting ships to avoid the storm. Two Carnival ships, the Valo and Triumph, were rerouted from stops in Cozumel to Progreso, on the northwest coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Miami-based lines Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have not yet made any itinerary changes because of the storms.
Staff writers Chabeli Herrera and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.