Tropical Storm Cristobal draws nearer to US Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A re-energised Tropical Storm Cristobal continued its advance toward the United States (US) Gulf Coast yesterday, 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 soon but was not expected to grow into a hurricane.

Squalls with tropical-force winds reached the mouth of the Mississippi River by yesterday morning and conditions were expected to deteriorate, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Cristobal’s maximum sustained winds remained at 50mph and it was moving north at 12mph, centred around 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 along the US Gulf Coast.

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 at around 7.30pm.

There appeared to be no injuries, but tree limbs were knocked down, and there were reports of power outages.

“Yes, it is related to the tropical storm that is well to our west,” said Scott Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida.

“But the tropical storm provided a lot of low level shear and that has allowed for some tornadoes to form over Central Florida.”

Recreational trailers and boats parked along LA-46 inside the levee gates in anticipation of Tropical Storm Cristobal in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana. PHOTO: AP