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New Orleans Braces for Deadly Storm Surges and Heavy Rainfall as Tropical Storm Cristobal Approaches

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Tropical Storm Cristobal is edging closer towards the U.S. Gulf Coast as of Sunday morning with strong winds and rainfall already affecting the northern part of the coast. Flooding and storm surges caused by Cristobal “are the biggest hazards,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a Sunday morning forecast.

“Squalls with tropical storm force winds are passing over the Mississippi Delta region of Southeastern Louisiana” and conditions are “expected to continue to deteriorate” through Sunday, the NHC said.

Tropical Storm Cristobal is 70 miles south of Grand Isle, La., and 75 miles South-Southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River as of 7 a.m. Sunday morning, according to the NHC. The storm is moving north at about 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

Tropical storm force winds are expected to “spread along the northern Gulf coast from central Louisiana to the Western Florida Panhandle,” including New Orleans Sunday. A tropical storm warning is already in effect for this area.

Life-threatening storm surge could affect regions from “the mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Mississippi,” the NHC says. A storm surge warning is in effect for those areas, it notes. Other parts of southern and Southeastern Louisiana could potentially face similar conditions. If the “peak surge occurs at the time of high tide,” the area from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Miss., could see between three to five feet of rising waters.

Heavy rainfall is forecasted to “continue across north Florida” Sunday morning, “spreading from east to west across the eastern and central Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle into Louisiana” later Sunday. Parts of the central Gulf Coast into the Lower Mississippi Valley could accumulate rainfall between four to eight inches with isolated areas reaching 12 inches.

A “few tornadoes” could occur Saturday and Sunday “across eastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and northern Florida.”

The center of Tropical Storm Cristobal is expected to move inland late Sunday through Monday morning and the NHC says, “the Central Gulf Coast region will be most prone to issues.”

“The center of Cristobal will approach the northern Gulf of Mexico coast (Sunday) afternoon, then move inland across Louisiana late today through Monday morning, and northward across Arkansas and Missouri Monday afternoon into Tuesday,” the NHC says.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com