Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall in southeast Louisiana late on Sunday afternoon, hours after pouring several inches of rain on the New Orleans area, the National Weather Service said.
Cristobal already brought 3 to 5 feet of flooding across the Louisiana coastline, from the mouth of the Mississippi River eastward into Mississippi, said Danielle Manning, a meteorologist from the Weather Service’s Baton Rouge office.
The storm has forced evacuations and killed many people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
Cristobal is expected to go toward the Mississippi and Louisiana border on Sunday night, then head to Arkansas and further north between Monday and Tuesday, according to the Weather Service.
The storm’s stronger wind gusts were mainly over coastal waters on Sunday and ranged from 50 to 60 miles per hour. The land-based winds were at 35 to 45 miles per hour, Ms. Manning said, adding that a lot of roads were closed.
As of late Sunday afternoon, the center of the storm was located 65 miles south of New Orleans.
“The center of the storm may or may not move over New Orleans, but the city is already being affected by the storm,” Ms. Manning said. “There is already significant flooding from the storm surge and flash flooding.”
The storm is expected to bring additional bands of rain in the area on Sunday evening. Meteorologists are watching for persistent bands of rain that can cause prolonged rainfall, which can lead to flash flooding.
“It depends on how much rain it is and how quickly it falls,” Ms. Manning said. “In New Orleans, the city relies on pumps to get rid of all that rainfall. If you exceed that capacity of the amount of water that can drain, you end up with flooding.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana declared Cristobal an emergency on Thursday, and on Friday asked President Trump to declare a pre-landfall emergency in the state. On Sunday, Mr. Trump responded on Twitter, saying that he would declare an emergency at the request of the state’s senators.
New Orleans issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas outside of the levee system on Sunday.
“The flash flooding mixed with the storm surge could be a disaster in some areas,” Ms. Manning said. “Areas that can’t handle that amount of rainfall.”