Tropical Storm Cristobal Landfalls Across Mexico, Producing Life-Threatening Rainfall

At 9:35 AM AST, Wednesday 3rd June 2020, Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall in the state of Campeche, Mexico near Atasta, Mexico. The estimated maximum sustained winds of 60 MPH (95 KM/H), with higher gusts. The most recent Atlantic named storm to make landfall in June in Mexico is Tropical Storm Danielle (2016).

At 5:00 PM AST, the center of Tropical Storm Cristobal was located near latitude 18.3 North, longitude 91.8 West.

Cristobal is moving toward the southeast near 3 mph (6 km/h), and a turn toward the east is expected by tonight. A turn toward the north-northeast and north is expected on Thursday and Friday. On the forecast track, the center will move over the landmass of eastern Mexico through Thursday. The center is forecast to move back over the southern Gulf of Mexico by Friday, and over the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 MPH (85 KM/H) with higher gusts. Slow weakening will occur while the cyclone moves over land, and Cristobal will likely become a tropical depression by Thursday evening. Some re-strengthening is expected to begin on Friday.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 KM) from the center.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 995 millibars.

This is the third named storm for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which officially began yesterday, June 1st. Cristobal’s formation is also the third earliest formation of a named tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin since records began.

Tropical Storm Cristobal Forecast Cone as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Cristobal Forecast Cone as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center

Watches & Warnings

Tropical Storm Cristobal Watches and Warnings as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Cristobal Watches and Warnings as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Campeche to Coatzacoalcos Mexico

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.

Hazards Affecting Land

Tropical Storm Cristobal Key Messages as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Cristobal Key Messages as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center

WIND: Tropical storm conditions are affecting the coast within portions of the warning area.

Tropical Storm Cristobal Key Messages as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center
Tropical Storm Cristobal Key Messages as of 5:00 PM AST Wednesday 3rd June 2020. Credit: National Hurricane Center

RAINFALL: Cristobal is expected to produce the following rain accumulations through Friday night:

  • Mexican states of Campeche, northern Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Yucatan: 10 to 20 inches, isolated 25 inches.
  • Mexican state of southern Chiapas: 15 to 20 inches, isolated 25 inches.
  • Mexican states of Veracruz and Oaxaca: 5 to 10 inches.
  • Southern Guatemala: An additional 15 to 20 inches, isolated storm total amounts of 35 inches dating back to Saturday, May 30th.
  • El Salvador: An additional 10 to 15 inches, isolated storm total amounts of 35 inches dating back to Saturday, May 30th.
  • Belize and Honduras: 3 to 6 inches, isolated 10 inches.

Rainfall in all of these areas may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

This system is of no threat to the Windward Islands, including Trinidad and Tobago.

Tropical Storm Cristobal Forecast Discussion

Tropical Storm Cristobal just inland across Mexico. Image: Weathernerds.org
Tropical Storm Cristobal just inland across Mexico. Image: Weathernerds.org

Cristobal continues to move over land and is passing a short distance south of Ciudad del Carmen, where tropical storm force winds, at least in gusts, have been reported. The current intensity estimate assumes only a very slow weakening rate and maximum winds are set at 45 kt for this advisory. Since the system has a large circulation, the weakening should continue to be at a slow rate and the cyclone is expected to become a tropical depression by late Thursday.

Once the center re-emerges over the Gulf of Mexico, which is forecast to happen on Friday, re-intensification should begin. However, the model guidance currently suggests that the atmospheric environment over the Gulf will not be very conducive for strengthening. The official intensity forecast is similar to the previous one, but is at the high end of the guidance suite.

As has been noted, however, there is significant uncertainty as to how strong Cristobal will be when it approaches the northern Gulf coast. This is due to the limitations of predicting tropical cyclone intensity change.

The storm continues to move southeastward quite slowly, or 135/3 kt. Cristobal should move in a partial cyclonic loop, and remain over land, while embedded within a broad gyre over Central America and eastern Mexico. Later in the forecast period, an increase in southerly flow is likely to cause the system to move back over water and approach the northern Gulf coast this weekend. The official track forecast follows the dynamical model consensus TVCA.

Key Messages:

  1. Damaging and deadly flooding has already occurred in portions of Mexico and Central America. Cristobal is expected to produce additional extreme rainfall amounts through the end of the week. The heaviest additional rainfall is expected over far southern Mexico and portions of the Yucatan Peninsula, while also extending along the Pacific coast from Chiapas to Guatemala and El Salvador. This rainfall could cause widespread life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
  2. Even though Cristobal has made landfall, tropical storm conditions will continue along and near the coast of Mexico through Thursday, especially over western Campeche, eastern Tabasco, and northern Chiapas states.
  3. Cristobal is forecast to re-emerge over the southern Gulf of Mexico Friday or Friday night and move northward over the central and northern Gulf of Mexico over the weekend. There is a risk of storm surge, heavy rainfall, and wind impacts beginning over the weekend along portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Panhandle. While it is too soon to determine the exact location, timing, and magnitude of these impacts, interests in these areas should monitor the progress of Cristobal and ensure they have their hurricane plan in place.

Forecast Discussion by Forecaster Pasch from the NHC.

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