Cristobal has sustained winds of 50 mph and is expected to continue to strengthen as it tracks north through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday.
As for Cristobal’s landfall location, several models say it will fall somewhere between Marsh Island and Slidell, Louisiana. But that does not mean other locations will be free from impact.
“The highest winds, greatest storm surge, and heaviest rain may occur east of where Cristobal makes landfall, so not only is the Louisiana coast at risk, but also Mississippi, Alabama, and well into the Florida Panhandle,” said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
In the New Orleans area, voluntary evacuation orders are in place for the towns of Jean Lafitte, Lower Lafitte, Crown Point, and Barataria, Jefferson Parish officials announced Saturday morning.
Residents are advised to bring vehicles, boats, and campers to higher ground as the storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall, according to Jefferson Parish officials.
A tropical storm watch has been issued from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border.
Flooding will be the biggest concern for Gulf Coast states east of Texas.
A storm surge watch has also been issued for the northern Gulf Coast from Indian Pass to Aripeka, Florida, and from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. A storm surge watch, according to the National Hurricane Center, means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation for 48 hours from rising water moving inland.
“Coastal flooding, heavy rain, and dangerous beach conditions will be the main impacts locally,” the National Weather Service said on its website. “The heaviest rain and greatest coastal flooding threat is expected Saturday night through Sunday.”
It’s worth noting that if the storm speeds up, and does not linger along the coast, flooding risks will decrease a bit.
“There appears to be some limiting factors in advance of the storm to keep it from intensifying into a hurricane, with wind shear and expected dry air that the storm will entrain,” Hennen said, explaining why he’s skeptical the storm will strengthen significantly.
Another concern is the potential for severe weather. The Storm Prediction Center has a “Marginal Risk” for the coastal regions of Lousiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and northwestern Florida.
“Tropical storms like Cristobal can still be prolific tornado producers, especially when making landfall on the Gulf Coast,” said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “Landfalling tropical systems from the Gulf of Mexico produce more tornadoes than their counterparts making landfall along the Atlantic coast, largely because the right-front quadrant (where most tornadoes are found) is located completely onshore.”