Tropical depression Claudette, which triggered destructive tornadoes and flooding on the Gulf Coast and is linked to a car crash that left 10 people dead in Alabama, is forecast to strengthen as it approaches North Carolina overnight, officials said Sunday.
Claudette was near Athens, Georgia, on Sunday afternoon and was expected to reach the North Carolina coast on Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.
The weather system’s maximum sustained winds of 30 mph will likely increase as it becomes a tropical storm overnight, the agency said. Tropical storm force winds can top 70 mph.
The storm, which formed on Saturday morning, pounded parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle, producing rainfall totals of as much as 15 inches in some areas, the agency said.
The accident occurred in southern Alabama, where authorities believe a hydroplaning car triggered a chain reaction accident on I-65. Multiple vehicles crashed into each other, killing eight girls aged 4-17 who had been traveling in a small bus owned by a residential home for youths.
A 29-year-old man, Cody Fox, and his 9-month-old baby, Ariana, were also killed in the accident, Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock said.
The local sheriff’s office called the incident the “worst ever” in the county.
The storm is also believed to have caused a tornado in the area of Brewton, Alabama, where Mayor Yank Lovelace said there had been “lots of damage.” Photos posted by the mayor and video published by NBC affiliate WVTM show homes that appear to have been destroyed during the storm.
Images published by the station also showed heavy flooding in the city of Northport. Just outside the nearby city of Tuscaloosa, a 24-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were killed when the storm caused a tree to fall on their mobile home, NBC affiliate WBRC reported.
In Slidell, Louisiana, authorities conducted multiple rescues after dozens of cars became trapped on roads, NBC affiliate KPLC reported.
Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer told Nola.com that he hadn’t seen such serious flooding in 25 years.
“The difference between then and last night was in 1995, we had 25 inches of rain in 24 hours,” he told the site. “Last night we had 10 to 12 in three hours.”
“If we’d had a fourth hour,” he added, “we would’ve been looking at a substantial amount of damage this morning.”
Claudette is expected to weaken into a post tropical cyclone Tuesday, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said.