Cyclone heads to Mexico Gulf coast as rain douses Southeast

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) – Storms with heavy rains doused the drought-parched South in the United States (US) on Friday, prompting alerts for floods and tornadoes as Post-Tropical Cyclone Olga headed for the Gulf coast.

The National Hurricane Centre said Olga, located in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana, would contribute to rainfall that could total 20 centimetres in spots by today. Neither it nor Tropical Storm Pablo, far out in the Atlantic, was expected to reach hurricane strength.

The National Weather Service said a cold front moving into the South would collide with Olga to produce rain and possibly worse through much of the weekend.

The powerful storm spawned multiple reported tornados in southwestern Alabama on Friday evening. The National Weather Service said a “confirmed large and dangerous” tornado was on the ground in Mobile County. It was one of several twisters reported on Friday night.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. WKRG showed viewer-submitted images of homes with damaged roofs and uprooted trees as well as possible tornados in the air. Alabama Power reported about 2,000 people were without power in the county.

Parts of the central Gulf Coast and Lower Mississippi Valley and western Tennessee Valley could receive as much as 20 centimetres through yesterday morning, forecasters said.

Streets were flooding around New Orleans and metro Birmingham, where about 7.5 centimetres of rain fell on Friday morning, and more rain was on the way. With scores of high school football games already rescheduled because of the weather, the University of Alabama cancelled its homecoming pep rally, bonfire and parade because of the forecast.

Olga had maximum sustained winds of 50mph and was centred about 443 kilometres south-southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana on Friday night. It was moving north-northeast at 17mph. The storm was expected to be a depression over Michigan by morning today.

Officials said Tropical Storm Pablo was a small storm that was moving east-southeast about 460 kilometres southwest of the Azores.

No coastal tropical cyclone watches or warnings were in effect.

Cars travel along a partially flooded road in Helena, Alabama. PHOTO: AP