The Claudette Tropical Depression, which has been blamed for the deaths of up to 12 people in Alabama, is expected to gain strength en route to the Carolinas, forecasters said late Sunday evening.
Two people were killed when a tree fell on their motor home and ten more were killed in a highway accident in intermittent rain while other vehicles appeared to be aquaplaning.
Some tornadoes were possible in parts of the Carolinas coast early Monday, the National Hurricane Center said. Winds from the tropical depression should reach up to 35 miles per hour, the center said. Rainfalls of one to three inches were expected by Monday morning, with some isolated areas reaching up to five inches, it said.
Parts of North Carolina were on a tropical storm warning, and so was the storm should intensify before it moved across the Atlantic, said the center. The storm, combined with the coastal tide, can cause flooding in normally dry areas near the coast, the center said.
A man in his early 20s and his three-year-old son were killed Saturday night in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, after a tree fell on their RV, said Nick Lolley, director of the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency.
Alabama authorities also said there was evidence that a Saturday afternoon collision on Interstate 65 that killed nine children and one adult was related to the storm. The children were returning from a beach vacation in a van when it collided with an SUV in Fort Deposit, Ala.
There is preliminary evidence that another vehicle caused aquaplaning, resulting in a mass column, said Butler County’s medical examiner Wayne Garlock. The storm brought intermittent rain as it moved through the region.
Claudette is the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It formed in the Gulf of Mexico and triggered up to 15 inches of rain in southeast Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and western Florida Panhandle on Saturday, forecasters said.
Claudette is expected to weaken to a post-tropical cyclone by Tuesday night.
While the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is only just beginning, many residents along the Gulf Coast are still recovering from a series of storms that struck the region last summer and fall.
Seven named storms devastated the Gulf Coast in 2020, including Eta, which struck Florida twice, leaving tens of thousands without power, and flooding beach communities.
Louisiana, one of the hardest hit states, has had at least five storms, including Zeta and Hurricane Laura, which hit land on the state’s coast as a Category 4 storm with Category 4 winds, destroying office buildings, a sky bridge, trees and power lines . The storm was also responsible for at least six deaths in the state.
In late May, a subtropical storm named Ana developed northeast of Bermuda and became the first named storm of the current hurricane season.
It was the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic prior to the official start of the season on June 1. Ana was followed by Bill, who formed hundreds of miles off the North Carolina coast last week and turned into a tropical storm before being downgraded for staying at sea.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict there will be 13 to 20 named storms this year, including six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major category 3 or higher hurricanes in the Atlantic.
Last year there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, which forced meteorologists to deplete the alphabet for a second time and switch to using Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms in history, surpassing 28 from 2005, and including the second highest number of hurricanes on record.
Hurricanes become more dangerous and destructive with every season of the year.
Researchers have found that climate change has produced stronger storms with heavier rainfall. The storms also tend to dawdle and meander. A combination of rising sea levels and slower storms also leads to higher and more destructive storm surges.
The coverage was contributed by Maria Cramer, Johnny Diaz, Mike Ives, Alyssa Lukpat, Azi Paybarah and Eduardo Medina.