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Tropical Storm Cristobal: Why flooding along the Gulf Coast will be the biggest concern

Recreational trailers and boats are parked along LA-46 inside the levee gates in anticipation of Tropical Storm Cristobal in St. Bernard Parish, La., Saturday, June 6, 2020. A re-energized Tropical Storm Cristobal advanced toward the U.S. Gulf Coast early Saturday, bringing with it the heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America. (Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate)
Recreational trailers and boats are parked along LA-46 inside the levee gates in anticipation of Tropical Storm Cristobal in St. Bernard Parish, La., Saturday, June 6, 2020. A re-energized Tropical Storm Cristobal advanced toward the U.S. Gulf Coast early Saturday, bringing with it the heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America. (Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate) (© 2019 MAX BECHERER/Times-Picayune | The Advocate)

The latest forecast track has Tropical Storm Cristobal -- the third named storm of what is expected to be an active hurricane season -- making landfall sometime Sunday late afternoon or early evening.

Tropical Storm Cristobal currently has sustained winds of 50 mph as it continues to approach the Gulf Coast. Cristobal is expected to maintain tropical storm strength through landfall later on Sunday.

Flooding will be the biggest concern

Regardless of where the storm makes landfall, impacts will be felt hundreds of miles away. Neighboring states to the east such as Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, even the Carolinas will each pick up several inches of rain in a short period of time which could trigger flash flooding.

Widespread rainfall along the coast will likely be in the 5-10 inch range, with some areas picking up at least a foot total. These numbers alone would be impressive and cause flooding, but the problem for some of these states is that they have been dealing with excessive rains for the past month, so the ground is already saturated. This will exacerbate the flooding concern for states like Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida, which have already received at least 8-10 inches in just the last 30 days.

Once the storm makes landfall it will continue to progress northward into states like Iowa and Wisconsin that rarely see tropical systems in their backyard. While the storm will significantly weaken once it makes it that far north, it will still be able to produce several inches of rain for cities like Madison and Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as well as Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, Iowa.

Tornadoes likely along the Gulf Coast

Another concern is the potential for severe weather. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a "Slight Risk" for the coastal regions of Louisiana and Mississippi. A "Marginal Risk" has also been issued and encompasses the slight risk in addition to portions of coastal Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

"Tropical storms like Cristobal can still be prolific tornado producers, especially when making landfall on the Gulf Coast," said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. "Landfalling tropical systems from the Gulf of Mexico produce more tornadoes than their counterparts making landfall along the Atlantic coast, largely because the right-front quadrant (where most tornadoes are found) is located completely onshore."

In Florida yesterday there were 6 tornado reports, including one that hit near downtown Orlando. At least three homes were significantly impacted by storm activity, according to a city spokesperson.

For a time, SeaWorld and Universal Studios were under a tornado warning and a funnel cloud was sighted.