Tropical Storm Cristobal advances toward US Gulf Coast

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© 2019 MAX BECHERER/Times-Picayune | The Advocate

Crews from the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East close the Bayou Road flood gate in St. Bernard Parish, La. Saturday, June 6, 2020, ahead of Tropical Storm Cristobal. A re-energized Tropical Storm Cristobal advanced toward the U.S. Gulf Coast early Saturday, bringing with it the heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America. (Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate)

MIAMI – A re-energized Tropical Storm Cristobal advanced toward the U.S. Gulf Coast on Saturday, spawning a tornado in Florida and bringing the heavy rains that already caused flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America.

After weakening to a tropical depression while moving over land in Mexico's Gulf coast, Cristobal headed back into the southern Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday and powered back up into a tropical storm. Forecasters said it would arrive on U.S. soil late Sunday but was not expected to grow into a hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was expected to slowly strengthen until making landfall Sunday night along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

But the storm already made its presence felt Saturday evening, spawning a tornado that touched down near downtown Orlando, the National Weather Service said. The twister just missed a group of protesters at Lake Eola at around 7:30 p.m. There appeared to be no injuries, but tree limbs were knocked down, and there were reports of power outages.

“Yes, it is related to the tropical storm that is well to our west,” said Scott Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida. “But the tropical storm provided a lot of low level shear and that has allowed for some tornadoes to form over Central Florida.”

The threat for tornadoes would continue overnight, he said.

Also, outer rain bands from the storm were moving across parts of the Gulf Coast on Saturday evening.

Cristobal's maximum sustained winds had strengthened to 50 mph (85 kph) by early Saturday and it was moving north at 12 mph (19 kph). As of Saturday evening, the storm was centered about 210 miles (340 kilometers) south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.