(CNN) — Tropical Storm Claudette hit the central Gulf Coast Saturday morning, cutting through southeastern Louisiana and threatening flash flooding there and in eastern states.
The center of the storm system, formerly known as Tropical Cyclone Potential Three, made landfall sometime in the early hours of Saturday, and at 5 a.m. (Miami time) was about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans with sustained winds. 45 miles per hour, reported the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Claudette is expected to produce heavy rain and dangerous flash flooding off the coast of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as northwest Florida, through Saturday afternoon, the NHC said.
Strong winds also hit parts of the region. Some, with tropical storm force, of at least 24 miles per hour, extended more than 200 miles from the center, the NHC said.
Parts of Louisiana were bombarded with more than 9 inches of rain from Friday through early Saturday, according to CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
Claudette is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression tonight and turn post-tropical on Sunday. The system is then forecast to redevelop over the western Atlantic Ocean on Monday as it moves away from the US east coast.
Residents of the region have been preparing for the storm in recent days. In New Orleans, Cara McCarthy moved her Toyota Prius to higher ground.
We never know what will happen. So (we are) hoping for the best. We have moved the cars, but we can’t move our house, ”McCarthy told CNN affiliate WDSU. We have our sandbags ready. We have our canvas ready and we are… hoping for the best.
In Mississippi, people began filling sandbags Thursday to help control potential flooding, CNN affiliate WLOX reported.
“I carried a lot of sand and I am going to put it around my pens, that way my dogs are not in knee-deep water,” Michael Fahey, a resident of Hancock County, Mississippi, told WLOX.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency Thursday and activated the Crisis Action Team to support local agencies with necessary resources beyond the capabilities of the region.
A tornado watch was issued for the Gulf Coast, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida peninsula until 12 p.m. (Miami time), according to the Storm Prediction Center. Some of the cities under that alert are Gulfport, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.
The tornado threat will remain as the storm system moves inland, although they are expected to be shorter and weaker.
More than 20 million across the South were under flash flood alert, with some areas expecting 5 to 25 centimeters of rain until the storm system moved to the east coast.
It was not immediately clear whether this system became a tropical storm before or after making landfall. The National Hurricane Center simultaneously announced around 5 a.m. ET that the tropical storm had formed, and also that it was centered inland near Houma, Louisiana.
On Friday, the NHC suggested that the storm system, then a potential tropical cyclone over the Gulf of Mexico, could turn into a tropical storm even after making landfall.
CNN’s Tyler Mauldin, Steve Almasy and Haley Brink contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism