Cindy Update: Tornado flattens buildings, flood threat lingers

[courtesy NBC News]

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Authorities say the suspected tornado near Birmingham, Alabama, has crumpled businesses and injured one person in the western suburb of Fairfield.

A liquor store and a fast-food restaurant were among the damaged businesses in that community, according to meteorologist Jason Holmes of the National Weather Service. Broadcast news footage showed siding ripped away from one store, debris flung all around.

Dean Argo, a spokesman for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said one employee of the liquor store was hurt. He did not elaborate.

The meteorologist Holmes also told The Associated Press that trees were down and buildings were reported damaged along the Interstate 20 corridor on the western outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama’s most populous city.

The weather service had issued tornado warnings earlier for the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa areas, and Gov. Kay Ivey had urged state residents to be alert for dangerous weather.

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2:15 p.m.

Forecasters are warning of a worrisome flood threat on a southeast Mississippi river following heavy rainfall associated with Tropical Depression Cindy.

The National Weather Service on Thursday reported projections the Chickasawhay (CHIK’-a-saw-hay) River at Leakesville would crest at 31 feet (9.5 meters), its highest level there in more than 25 years.

Meteorologist Ryan Rogers says heavy rain early Thursday pushed up projections. Leakesville has received more than 8 inches (200 millimeters) of rain over the past five days.

The Greene County Herald reports that rising waters could threaten homes and public buildings, including an elementary school.

Rogers says the flood forecast has some uncertainty and could worsen if more rain falls.

Other south Mississippi rivers are also swollen from Cindy’s rains, but their crests are forecast to be less severe.

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1:55 p.m.

A National Weather Service meteorologist says a suspected tornado has damaged several businesses in an outlying suburb of Birmingham, Alabama.

Meteorologist Jason Holmes said buildings, including a liquor store and a fast food restaurant, were reported damaged in the suburban community of Fairfield, west of the city. He said it appeared one person has been injured but he had no details.

Holmes also told The Associated Press that trees were down and buildings were reported damaged along the Interstate 20 corridor on the southwestern outskirts of Birmingham.

The Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the Birmingham area earlier Thursday afternoon. Another had been issued for Tuscaloosa and Bibb Counties elsewhere in the state as remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy pushed through the Southeast.

Dean Argo, a spokesman for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said a state liquor store in Fairfield received “significant damage” and one employee was injured when the storm hit.

Images broadcast by local media showed the walls of the store had collapsed.

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1:10 p.m.

Two tornado warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service in Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey says the threat of severe weather hasn’t let up as remnants of a tropical storm push inland.

One of the warnings was issued around 1 p.m. CDT Thursday in Jefferson County near Birmingham. The other was for Tuscaloosa and Bibb Counties. The weather service indicated that damage was likely from a possible twister near Birmingham, noting radar signaled there was debris in the air.

Photographs on social media showed what appeared to be a funnel cloud in the air in the Birmingham area.

Jim Stefkovich, a meteorologist with the Alabama Emergency Agency, said Cindy dumped three to six inches of rain on coastal Alabama with up to 12 inches in some spot. More rainfall was expected through the day.

“We are not done with the threat yet,” Stefkovich said.

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12:45 p.m.

Rising tides in the wake of Tropical Depression Cindy have prompted the mayor of a low-lying coastal Louisiana town to urge an evacuation.

Mayor Tim Kerner said Thursday that streets and yards in the town of Lafitte, south of New Orleans, are flooded.

Kerner said he’s concerned that fast-rising water might affect homes and automobiles throughout the town and surrounding areas – even those protected by levees.

Kerner said he issued the call for a voluntary evacuation as a precaution.

Cindy moved ashore as a tropical storm early Thursday near the Louisiana-Texas line. It weakened to a tropical depression and was moving north toward Arkansas. The system continues to pull moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and is fueling bands of heavy rain and storms throughout the Southeast.

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Noon

Even as a weakening Tropical Depression Cindy moved inland over Louisiana, the effects of the storm were being felt for the third day on the Gulf Coast.

In a neighborhood in Ocean Springs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, residents awoke Thursday to flooded streets and, in a few cases, flooded homes.

Water wasn’t the only problem. Resident and neighborhood watch organizer Erin West says people are keeping an eye out for alligators that live in nearby ponds.

Meanwhile, Cindy’s intermittent wind and rain weren’t just limited to the coast. Moderate to heavy rain fell hundreds of miles away, throughout much of the Southeast and as far north as southern Illinois and Indiana.

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11:50 a.m.

Louisiana’s governor is urging his state’s residents against dropping their guard now that Tropical Storm Cindy has weakened to a tropical depression.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that Louisiana is “not out of the woods yet” as the remnants of Cindy continue to move north across the state. Edwards says large parts of Louisiana are still at risk of flash flooding, strong winds, and tornadoes.

But so far, Cindy’s effects remain less damaging than initially feared. The governor says he’s received no reports of widespread flooding damage to homes or businesses and no requests for search and rescue needs.

The storm is expected in North Louisiana by Thursday evening before moving out of the state overnight. Several roads in coastal areas remain closed because of high water.

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10:50 a.m.

The National Weather Service says it expects heavy rain to spread across West Virginia starting late Thursday and continuing into Saturday.

Meteorologists say a combination of two systems – remnants of former Tropical Storm Cindy and another storm front – could produce severe thunderstorms, flooding and damaging wind gusts particularly on Friday.

Emergency officials are monitoring the forecast starting late Thursday night in the greater Charleston area with expected heavy rain at times continuing into Friday and early Saturday.

The severe weather forecast comes nearly on the anniversary of last year’s torrential rains and flooding, which killed 23 people in West Virginia.

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10:00 a.m.

Forecasters say Cindy, the onetime tropical storm since downgraded to a depression, is weakening as it heads inland.

But bands of heavy rain are continuing – with heavy rain in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says a tropical storm warning from High Island, Texas, to Morgan City, Louisiana, has been discontinued, hours after the storm made landfall.

At 10 a.m. CDT Thursday, Cindy was about 165 miles (265 kilometers) northwest of Morgan City and moving to the north at 13 mph (20 kph).

A turn toward the northeast is expected. Cindy or its remnants are forecast to move into Arkansas early Friday, then into Tennessee.

Forecasters warn that heavy rainfall will spread over the Tennessee and Ohio valleys Thursday. Then into the central Appalachians Friday and Saturday.

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9:55 a.m.

Forecasters have issued a flash flood watch for eastern and southern Arkansas as Tropical Storm Cindy heads toward the state.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm is expected to weaken as its moves inland. The storm made landfall early Thursday in southwestern Louisiana.

The National Weather Service in Little Rock says the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy will move into southern Arkansas later Thursday, bringing scattered thunderstorms and some areas of heavy rainfall.

Forecasters say areas south and east of Little Rock could see 2 to 5 inches of rain through Saturday morning. The flash flood watch is in effect from 7 p.m. Thursday through Friday afternoon.

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8:10 a.m. Authorities in Florida are urging people to stay off the beaches and out of the Gulf of Mexico until weather conditions brought by Tropical Storm Cindy improve.

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford tells the News Herald deputies responded to 37 calls regarding swimmers in the Gulf on Tuesday as the storm brought heavy rain to Florida’s Panhandle.

The swimmers entered the water even though Panama City Beach was flying double-red flags, warning of dangerous conditions and extremely rough surf.

Ford says lifeguards and deputies were fed up as tourists entered the water in spite of the warnings. There’s a law that bans swimming in the Gulf when double-red flags are flying.

Ford says he’d rather people use common sense and not get in the water. There were no reports of injuries.

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8 a.m.

In southwest Louisiana, not far from where Tropical Storm Cindy came ashore before dawn, motorists in trucks were driving through knee-high water in the streets.

Some other drivers, though, were pulling over Thursday morning and not attempting to navigate the flooded roads in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Shortly after dawn, some of the low-lying clouds were rotating, and gusty winds whipped across the landscape.

With the storm now over land, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it’s expected to weaken over the next two days.

The storm was blamed for one death Wednesday: A 10-year-old boy from the St. Louis area was killed on an Alabama beach when he was struck by a log that washed ashore.

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7:15 a.m.

Tropical Storm Cindy has brought heavy winds and rain to southeast Texas but minimal damage as the storm system moves northeast.

Street and other flooding was reported in places such as Port Arthur, along Sabine Pass and the border with Louisiana, where Cindy made landfall early Thursday.

Winds in the Galveston County town of San Leon exceeded 50 mph but were slightly weaker along other parts of the Texas coast southeast of Houston.

The Houston area was expected to get a couple inches of rain through Thursday. A flash flood watch was issued for parts of East Texas.

The Texas Department of Transportation says all state roads and bridges are open in the area.

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7 a.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Cindy is expected to weaken as it moves farther inland after coming ashore in southwestern Louisiana early Thursday.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph (64 kph) and it’s expected to weaken to a tropical depression later in the morning and become a remnant low Thursday night.

As of 7 a.m. CDT, Cindy is centered about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is moving north near 12 mph (19 kph).

Already, the storm has been blamed for one death Wednesday: A 10-year-old boy from the St. Louis area was killed on an Alabama beach when he was struck by a log that washed ashore.

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6 a.m.

Floating colonies of fire ants could form in flood waters as Tropical Storm Cindy trudges inland.

That’s the warning from Alabama state officials, who say the insects known as red imported fire ants can present a potentially serious health threat to people and animals during severe flooding.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System said in a statement that the floating colonies may look like ribbons, streamers or a large ball of ants floating on the water.

They say the floating blobs contain all members of the colony, including worker ants, winged reproductive males and females, and queen ants. The storm made landfall in southwestern Louisiana before dawn Thursday, bringing rain and the threat of flash flooding and tornadoes.

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4:05 a.m.

Tropical Storm Cindy has made landfall in southwestern Louisiana, bringing rain and the threat of flash flooding and tornadoes. As of about 4 a.m. CDT Thursday, the storm was centered about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west-southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is moving north near 12 mph (19 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Cindy’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 40 mph (64 kph) with continued weakening expected over the next two days. Already, the storm has been blamed for one death Wednesday: A 10-year-old boy from the St. Louis area was killed on an Alabama beach when he was struck by a log that washed ashore.

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2:05 a.m. Weather forecasters are expecting a third day of rough weather for Gulf Coast states as Tropical Storm Cindy approaches. The storm was blamed for one death Wednesday: A 10-year-old boy from the St. Louis area was killed on an Alabama beach when he was struck by a log that washed ashore. In addition to bands of drenching rain, the storm brought high winds and numerous, short-lived tornadoes and waterspouts. Most of the severe weather was to the east of the storm. Numerous coastal roads and highways flooded and there were scattered reports of power outages and building damage from wind or water.

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