Tropical Storm Cristobal takes aim at the Gulf Coast, and Mid-South

As we just finish the end of the first official week of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, the THIRD named storm of the year will become the SECOND U.S. landfall in what is expected to be an active season overall. Previously, Tropical Storm Arthur made a close approach to the North Carolina Outer Banks on Monday, May 18. That was followed by Tropical Storm Bertha, which formed and gained tropical storm strength an hour before making landfall on the South Carolina coast on May 27.

Tropical Storm Cristobal moves towards the Gulf Coast

Now, all eyes turn toward the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Cristobal churns towards the Louisiana coastline with a Sunday evening landfall projected. Due to recent interaction with the Yucatan peninsula and dry air wrapping around the system, rapid strengthening is not forecast and the system likely won’t have time to gain hurricane strength before making landfall.

Saturday morning visible satellite imagery of T.S. Cristobal as it heads for the LA coastline (COD)

Primary threats from the central Louisiana coastline eastward through the MS, AL, and FL panhandle coastal areas this weekend into Monday are torrential rain that is likely to cause freshwater flooding, wind gusts to near hurricane force, up to 5 feet of storm surge, churning waters with high waves and rip currents, and isolated tornadoes.

The official track for T.S. Cristobal as of Saturday morning, via the National Hurricane Center.

Once Cristobal makes landfall, it will move north-northwest across Louisiana into Arkansas on Monday, then accelerate north and northeast into Missouri Tuesday morning and across the Corn Belt into the western Great Lakes by Wednesday morning. The main impacts in the Lower Mississippi Valley and north as far as the Mid-South are likely to be gusty wind shifting from east to south, heavy rainfall, and isolated tornadoes.

Forecast tracks from multiple models are in fairly good consensus Saturday morning, as shown by this “spaghetti plot” of model solutions. (Tropical Tidbits)

Remnants of Cristobal to impact the Mid-South

While we won’t notice anything out of the ordinary this weekend (mostly sunny with highs in the 90s), initial impacts in the Memphis area will begin Monday as clouds thicken, rain arrives around lunchtime into the afternoon and breezes pick up from the southeast.

Forecast rain amounts from the NOAA Weather Prediction Center show up to 3″ in the Memphis metro, while higher amounts will occur just to the east of the center’s path with lesser amounts further away. (WeatherBell)

The period of heaviest rainfall in the metro is likely to be Monday evening through Tuesday morning when 2-3″ of rain could fall (heaviest in east AR) as the center of Tropical Depression Cristobal is likely to move through central AR. A few embedded thunderstorms are possible overnight and the tornado threat will bear watching (though they are typically more common in these scenarios during the daytime hours when the sun’s rays provide a little more instability). In addition, wind will pick up out of the southeast to 25-30 mph with gusts reaching 30-40 mph Monday evening and overnight.

According to the early Saturday run of the European model, maximum wind gusts through Tuesday evening will be in the 50-60 mph range just to the east of the storm’s path, while we could see 40+ mph peak wind. (WeatherBell)

By Tuesday morning, with the center of the storm into central Missouri, steady rain should taper off but showers and a few thunderstorms remain possible, especially in the morning hours. Wind will likely remain gusty from the south Tuesday, in the 30-35 mph range. By Tuesday night, a cold front will push through, bringing the potential for another round of showers and thunderstorms, but also escorting a drier and less humid airmass for the remainder of the week.

Preparation and cleanup weather

We recommend using this weekend to prepare for heavy rain and prolonged strong wind Monday PM into Tuesday. Make sure gutters and storm drains are clear and ready for a couple of inches of rain. Secure outdoor objects or bring them in. A few wind gusts Monday night will exceed 40 mph, but a lengthy period of 30-40 mph wind gusts is expected (up to 24 hours). Once it all passes, pleasant early summer weather with low humidity, highs in the mid 80s, and lows in the mid 60s for several days will make for ideal conditions for any cleanup that is necessary.

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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