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Tropical Storm Claudette spawns tornadoes and brings heavy rains to the South


By Derrick Bryson Taylor


Tropical Storm Claudette, the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed in the Gulf of Mexico and brought “copious rainfall” of 5-10 inches across the Mississippi Delta and Gulf Coast before being downgraded to a tropical depression Saturday, forecasters said.


Maximum sustained winds decreased to 35 mph, with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday afternoon. “Claudette is expected to weaken a little more tonight,” the center said in an advisory. “However, it is forecast to become a tropical storm again when it moves across the Carolinas Sunday night or early Monday.”


Claudette was expected to produce additional rainfall totals of 3-6 inches, with some pockets getting as much as 8 inches, across eastern Alabama, northern Georgia, the Florida Panhandle, and South and North Carolina, the center said.


Isolated 15-inch rainfall totals could be recorded in southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida panhandle, it said.


On Saturday, Tillmans Corner, Alabama, reported nearly 5 inches of rain; Slidell, Louisiana, reported more than 9 inches; and Diamondhead, Mississippi, reported nearly 12 inches, the Weather Prediction Center said.


Claudette also brought tornadoes to portions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.


A tornado in East Brewton, Alabama, about 80 miles northeast of Mobile, touched down around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, injuring three people, authorities said.


Gov. Kay Ivey said on Twitter that about 50 homes in a mobile home park in the area were destroyed.


It is not unusual for tornadoes to develop within a hurricane system, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson and meteorologist with the center in Miami.


“You’ve got these bands of thunderstorms that are rotating around the center, and there is wind coming from all sorts of different directions, so they’ll spring up these tornadoes very quick,” he said.


The storm system caused power failures across the South, particularly in Florida, where more than 12,000 customers were without electricity as of Saturday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates live power data from utilities.


“We’re continuing to feel the effects of severe weather due to TS Claudette across Northwest Florida,” said Kimberly Blair, a spokesperson for Gulf Power Co., which had about 3,400 customers without power early Saturday afternoon.


In Alabama, nearly 3,000 customers were without power Saturday afternoon, according to Alabama Power, which said it was assessing damage from Claudette.


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