Tropical Storm Cindy weakened Thursday as it pushed northward along the Texas-Louisiana border but was still expected to dump heavy rain on both states as it set on a path toward Tennessee and Kentucky.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds slipping to 40 mph. The center said Cindy should weaken to a tropical depression later Thursday and become a remnant low Thursday night.
Still, the storm could dump as much as 8 inches of rain in parts of southern Mississippi, Alabama and the extreme Western Florida panhandle through Friday morning, bringing life-threatening flash flooding.
A few tornadoes were also likely through Thursday night from the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valley regions to the central Gulf Coast.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as a 10-year-old boy died in Alabama. Parts of Louisiana had five inches of rain by early afternoon, and Pensacola was slammed by more than 8 inches of rain in 36 hours.
Flooding and power outages were already reported early Wednesday, almost a full day before the storm was forecast to make landfall. A tropical storm warning was in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Although New Orleans was in the path of the storm, the National Weather Service had lifted the tropical storm warning for the metropolitan area before it hit land.
Some streets in the city were closed because of flooding, however, as five inches of rain drenched the area at midday. Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents to clean out catch basins — and not to drive through standing water. Landrieu said the city could expect an additional 3-6 inches of rain by midday Friday. And tornadoes were also a possibility.
“The state’s emergency preparedness and response apparatus are taking Tropical Storm Cindy seriously, and we are calling on all Louisianans throughout the state to do so as well,” Edwards said. “Please do all you can to prepare for the worst while praying for the best.”
Bracing for the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was moving 125,000 meals and 200,000 bottles of water into the state. The Louisiana National Guard moved high water vehicles and helicopters into areas that could potentially flood.
Flood control locks and gates were being closed along Louisiana’s coast. Flooding was also reported on Alabama’s Dauphin Island. Power outages were reported in Morgan City and flooding was reported in parts of St. Mary’s Parish.
In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey also declared a statewide emergency, citing National Weather Service forecasts for significant flash flooding in the state.
Alabama agricultural experts warn that the heavy rain and flooding from Cindy could stir up colonies of red imported fire ants, posing a potentail medical theat to people and animals.
The Alabama Coolperative Extension system stresses in a report this week that floodwaters will not kill fire arms but can disperse them.
“Instead their colonies will emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float and flow with the water until reaching a dry area or object,” ACES said.
These amoeba-like masses contain an entire working community or ants, eggs, males, females and queen ants. “When flood waters begin to recede, floating fire ant colonies will clamber on to anything they come in contact with,” the report says.
It cautions people in flooded areas to wear rubbers boots, rain gear and cuffed gloves to prevent ants reaching the skin. .
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the State Operations Center to upgrade to “increased readiness.” Abbott activated four Texas Task Force 1 boat squads and two Texas Military Department vehicle squads of five vehicles each to respond to any emergencies. The Department of State Health Services Emergency Medical Task Force, Texas Military Forces Aircraft and shelter and feeding teams were placed on standby.
“As we have learned in the past, weather patterns can change rapidly and without warning,” he said. “I ask all Texans to keep those in the storm’s path, and our brave first responders, in their prayers as they prepare for this storm.”
In Galveston County, Texas, voluntary evacuations were underway for the Bolivar Peninsula for people with medical conditions that depend on electricity.
In Florida, John Dosh is director of emergency management for Escambia County, where Pensacola is the county seat. He said the drainage system had reached capacity Wednesday and encouraged residents in flood-prone areas to closely monitor conditions. But he hoped the flooding could be minimized.
Contributing: John Bacon