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US Gulf Coast braces for arrival of Tropical Storm Cristobal

A re-energised Tropical Storm Cristobal continued its advance towards the US Gulf Coast early on Sunday, having spawned a tornado in Florida and brought heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America.

After weakening to a tropical depression while moving over land in Mexico’s Gulf coast, Cristobal headed back into the southern Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday and powered back up into a tropical storm.

Forecasters said it would arrive on US soil late on Sunday but was not expected to grow into a hurricane.

Squalls with tropical-force winds reached the mouth of the Mississippi River by Sunday morning and conditions were expected to deteriorate, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Cristobal’s maximum sustained winds remained at 85kmph (50mph) and it was moving north at 19kmph (12mph), centred about 225km (140 miles) south-southwest from the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to slowly strengthen until making landfall.

But the storm already made its presence felt on Saturday evening with a tornado that touched down near downtown Orlando, the National Weather Service said. The twister just missed a group of protesters at Lake Eola in the evening. There appeared to be no injuries, but tree limbs were knocked down, and there were reports of power outages.

The Hurricane Center said the storm could cause heavy rains from East Texas to Florida this weekend and into early next week.

A tropical storm warning was posted for the northern Gulf of Mexico coast from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border. Storm surge warnings and watches were in effect in Louisiana and Mississippi, with flooding up to five feet (1.5 metres) expected in some places.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency to prepare for the storm’s possible arrival.

Cristobal formed this week in the Bay of Campeche from the remnants of Tropical Storm Amanda, which had sprung up last weekend in the eastern Pacific and hit Central America.

SOURCE: AP NEWS AGENCY

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