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Cristobal was projected to weaken to a tropical depression Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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NEW ORLEANS – Once-mighty Tropical Storm Cristobal weakened to a tropical depression Monday but winds, rain, flooding and even tornadoes remained a threat from the Gulf Coast to Missouri.

More than 20,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi alone remained without power Monday morning. 

“It’s very efficient, very tropical rainfall,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said in a Facebook video. “It rains a whole bunch real quick.”

Wind gusts to tropical storm-force were forecast Monday from southeastern Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle. Gusty winds were expected to sweep north through Wednesday over portions of the Midwest and western Great Lakes, the weather service said.

The storm was  expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches across portions of the Gulf Coast into the Lower Mississippi Valley, with isolated amounts to 15 inches. Heavy rains could stretch as far north as Wisconsin, the weather service said.

A busy hurricane season and the coronavirus pandemic: ‘A cataclysmic scenario’

The storm was centered 40 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Monday morning, still driving sustained winds of 35 mph. State offices in 22 parishes were ordered closed, and President Donald Trump approved federal assistance for the state’s cleanup efforts.

“At the request of @SenJohnKennedy and @SenBillCassidy  of the Great State of Louisiana, I will be approving & signing today an EMERGENCY DECLARATION which will help with all aspects of the big storm that is currently hitting your shores,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “FEMA is already there. God Bless You!”

Cristobal made landfall in southeast Louisiana over the weekend after days of rains and high water. Rough surf was stirred well ahead landfall – two brothers were caught in an undertow and killed Friday when they were swept away by a rip current off the coast of Louisiana. 

Gov. Jon Bel Edwards had declared a state of emergency last week as Cristobal marched to the coast.

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“We are continuing to work with our federal partners on those parts of the request that have not been addressed,” Edwards tweeted Sunday night. “Our citizens have weathered many storms, and I’m certain that they will this time as well.”

Cristobal’s forecast path takes it inland through southeast Louisiana on Monday, continuing north into Arkansas and Missouri by Tuesday, moving over Wisconsin on Tuesday night and into Canada by Wednesday, according to the latest advisory.

In New Orleans, many shops were boarded up. City Hall and the library system were closed Monday.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, city officials said on Facebook that the biggest issue of the storm for first responders was providing assistance to dozens of motorists who tried to drive through flooded roadways.

In Alabama, the bridge linking the mainland to Dauphin Island was closed much of Sunday. Police and state transportation department vehicles led convoys of motorists to and from the island when breaks in the weather permitted.

Busy hurricane season expected: Up to 19 named storms possible

In Florida, a tornado – the second in two days in the state as the storm approached – uprooted trees and downed power lines Sunday afternoon south of Lake City near Interstate 75, the weather service and authorities said. There were no reports of injuries.

The hurricane season that began a week ago is already historically busy – Cristobal is the third named storm. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted last month as many as 19 named storms would form this year, as many as 10 reaching hurricane strength.

Bacon reported from McLean, Virginia. Contributing: The Associated Press

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