In an unusual but not unprecedented occurrence, Tropical Storm Claudette, with 45 mph sustained winds, formed on Saturday morning when the storm’s center was inland, about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. Overnight, Claudette brought torrential rain and flooding to portions of the central Gulf Coast, with 24-hour rainfall amounts of over 10 inches in portions of Louisiana and Mississippi. The flooding was particularly severe near Slidell, Louisiana, where a number of high-water rescues were performed. Claudette also caused wind damage; Pensacola Regional Airport recorded a wind gust of 81 mph at 7:53 a.m. EDT Saturday, and a tornado spawned by Claudette brought heavy damage to a trailer park in East Brewton, Alabama, on Saturday morning.

Claudette brought moderate storm surge flooding to the coast; the highest storm surge values at any NOAA tide gauges were 5.49’ at Waveland, Mississippi, 4.20’ at Bayou La Batre Bridge, Alabama, 4.03’ at Shell Beach, Louisiana, and 3.86’ at Pascagoula, Mississippi. The storm surge crossed the threshold for “moderate” coastal flooding at these locations.

Figure 1. Rainfall amounts for the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. EDT Saturday, June 19, 2021. Claudette brought up to 10 inches of rain (white colors) to the coast. (Image credit: NOAA)

Claudette’s formation date of June 19 comes about eight weeks before the usual August 13 arrival of the Atlantic’s third named storm, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Only four Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1950 have had three named storms form earlier in the year: 2020, 2016, 1959, and 2012 (thanks go to Phil Klotzbach for this fact). This year is well behind the blistering pace of the record 2020 season, though, which had its third named storm on June 2 and fourth named storm on June 23.

According to Jake Carstens, the last time a storm was named while over land was in 2016, when Tropical Storm Julia was named inland near Jacksonville, Florida. It is possible, though, that in post-season analysis it will be determined that Claudette formed just offshore, before landfall.

Figure 2. Predicted surface wind speed in knots (multiply by 1.15 to convert to mph) at 8 a.m. EDT Monday, June 21, 2021, from the 0Z Saturday, June 19, run of the European (ECMWF) model. (Image credit: weathermodels.com)

Watch for intensification of Claudette over the Carolinas

Most of the global computer models predict that Claudette will weaken to a tropical depression by Saturday night, but then re-intensify to a tropical storm over land on Monday as it moves east-northeast over South and North Carolina. The 11 a.m. EDT Saturday NHC forecast predicted Claudette would re-intensify to a 40-mph tropical storm by 8 a.m. EDT Monday, when the storm was predicted to be over eastern North Carolina. The 0Z Saturday run of the European model was particularly aggressive re-intensifying Claudette, predicting that it would bring sustained winds of 50 mph to North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Monday.

According to retired NHC branch chief Hugh Cobb, a number of systems have re-intensified in this manner, including Cleo (1964), Agnes (1972), and Danny (1997). Technically, this occurs because of vorticity column stretching as the system moves over the lower terrain east of the southern Appalachians.

Figure 3. Visible satellite image of Tropical Storm Dolores making landfall 50 miles southeast of Manzanillo, Mexico, at 10 a.m. CDT June 19, 2021. (Image credit: NOAA/RAMMB/Colorado State University)

Tropical Storm Dolores makes landfall in Mexico

Tropical Storm Dolores made landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico about 50 miles southeast of Manzanillo at 10 a.m. CDT Saturday, June 19. At landfall, Dolores was a high-end tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Dolores is predicted to bring dangerous flooding rains of 6-10 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 15 inches.

Dolores was the strongest landfalling Eastern Pacific named storm since September 21, 2019, when Hurricane Lorena hit Mexico’s Baja Peninsula with 80 mph winds. Only one Eastern Pacific named storm made landfall in 2020 – Tropical Storm Amanda, which hit Guatemala as a minimal tropical storm with 40 mph winds.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...