DEVELOPING STORY: Claudette should be in Alabama Monday

Published 2:09 pm Sunday, August 16, 2009

Covington County was placed under a tropical storm warning Sunday night as Tropical Storm Claudette moved toward the Gulf Coast.

As of 11 p.m. Sunday, Claudette with some 50 mph winds was located about 25 miles west of Panama City, Fla. The system was expected to make landfall Sunday night between Panama City and Pensacola.

The storm was expected to move into South Alabama early Monday.

A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions possible. The National Weather Service forecasts predicts winds 30 to 40 mph with gusts as high as 55 mph.

A spokesman for the National Weather Service in Mobile said Covington County will experience rain and winds as Tropical Storm Claudette moves ashore.

Gene Jacobi, spokesperson for the National Weather Service in Mobile, the storm strengthened over night and became a tropical depression around 2 a.m. Sunday.

“It’s actually been a tropical wave out there for a couple of days,” he said.

Later Sunday morning, the depression was upgraded to Tropical Storm Claudette, after wind models increased to more than 39 miles per hour.

According to NWS Senior Forecaster Don Shepherd conditions “were just right” for the tropical wave to form into the year’s third named storm.

“Really the threats in Mobile and Baldwin counties are minimal,” Shepherd said. “The bigger threat is more in Escambia, Conecuh and Covington counties. The main center of the storm will hit late tonight and early tomorrow morning.”

Shepherd said at 1:30 p.m. Sunday that numerous showers and thunderstorms are already “rapidly developing” as a result of Claudette. He added that there would also be “low-end” tornado threats this afternoon into the evening hours.

Shepherd said he does not expect Claudette to be upgraded to a hurricane with early sustained wind predictions between 20 to 25 miles per hour with gusts between 40 and 50 miles per hour, which are also expected as the center of the storm passes through the area.

“It will be gusty and fairly breezy,” Shepherd said. “Winds of that type can bring down some trees and power lines.”

In addition, Shepherd suggests that residents living in the path of Claudette make sure they secure loose, lightweight objects outdoors and have batteries and other essentials in case of power outages.

“It should begin getting breezy between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.,” he said.

As for storm’s expected duration, it is unknown, but not expected to be long.