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Illustration by Security Management

Three Days into Hurricane Season, Cristobal Threatens the Gulf Coast

Tropical Depression Cristobal is the third named Atlantic storm of 2020, popping up only three days into this year's hurricane season, which officially started on 1 June.

By Tuesday morning, Cristobal was labeled a tropical storm and made landfall on the eastern shoreline of Mexico, along the Bay of Campeche. It could ultimately hit the U.S. Gulf Coast region and is expected to make landfall on the central Louisiana coast Sunday, 7 June. 

As of 4 June, the National Hurricane Center downgraded the storm to a tropical depression but warned that Cristobal will continue to produce heavy rains and life-threatening flooding. And although Cristobal was knocked down from a tropical storm, in the Gulf region’s recent history it has been rainfall—especially when a storm parks above an area like Hurricanes Harvey and Florence—that has caused some of the most extraordinary damage or loss of life.

Cristobal is expected to linger over the Mexican shoreline through Friday. The storm has sustained winds of 40 mph, plus gusts, and the Mexican states of Tabasco, Veracruz, and Campeche could see a total of up to 20 inches of rain, and in some isolated instances more than 24 inches of rain, according to CNN. Other countries hit by Cristobal include Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras.

Some of the storm’s impacts will likely extend out to the U.S. Gulf Coast on Saturday, specifically heavy rain and high surf.

New Orleans, Louisiana, is estimated to get a 2-foot rise in the Mississippi River, bringing it up to 16 feet. “Levees and floodwalls in the city protect from water heights of between 22 and 25 feet,” the local news site reported. “However, a segment of levee at the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters—at the gauge—is still as low as 18 feet, with a long-delayed project to build new, higher floodwalls not expected to begin until the end of August.” Parts of Texas and the Florida panhandle may also be impacted.

Some parts of the United States have already had to deal with named storms, in tandem with responding to the coronavirus pandemic. “Tropical Storm Bertha made landfall along South Carolina’s coast shortly after forming Wednesday morning,” the Associated Press reported. “The storm brought gusty winds and heavy rain to the state but no major problems, like the coastal evacuations and sheltering operations sometimes necessitated with major weather events.”

However, with the Atlantic hurricane season lasting through 30 November, some residents may have to soon consider whether to risk contracting the coronavirus in order to gain shelter from a storm.