Cindy weakens to tropical depression; flooding still a concern

Meteorologist Grant Gilmore forecasts the weather for Thursday, June 22, 2017.

indy weakened from a tropical storm to a tropical depression Thursday as it pushed northward along the Texas-Louisiana border, but bands of heavy rain continued in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, bringing the threat of new flooding.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north at 13 mph with maximum sustained winds slipping to 35 mph. The center of the storm was located about 165 miles northwest of Morgan City, La. Cindy should weaken to a remnant low-pressure area by Thursday night, the hurricane center said.

All tropical storm watches and warnings have been dropped.

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. Flood watches were in effect all along the Mississippi River Valley and parts of the Ohio Valley.

Along the coast, a storm surge from 1 to three feet above ground level was expected from southeastern Louisiana to western Florida.

In southwest Louisiana, not far from where Tropical Storm Cindy came ashore before dawn on Thursday, motorists in trucks were driving through knee-high water in the streets.

Some other drivers, though, were pulling over Thursday morning and not trying to challenge flooded roads in Cameron Parish, La.

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.

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 and Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the city could expect an additional 3-6 inches of rain by midday Friday. The mayor urged residents to clean out catch basins — and not to drive through standing water.

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 potential medical threat to people and animals. The Alabama Cooperative Extension system stresses in a report this week that floodwaters will not kill fire ants 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 of ants, eggs, males, females and queen ants. "When floodwaters 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 Mississippi, the threat was from alligators. In Ocean Springs, which suffered flooded streets Thursday, resident and neighborhood watch organizer Erin West said people were keeping an eye out for alligators that might be emerging from nearby ponds, the Associated Press reports.

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.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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