Claudette loses steam

Published 11:28 pm Monday, August 17, 2009

The first named tropical storm of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season hit land in Florida, then fizzled.

Tropical Storm Claudette formed as a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida and Alabama with seemingly no warning late Saturday.

She gained enough strength by Sunday to become a tropical storm and rumbled toward land.

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The National Weather Service in Birmingham issued several watches, including a tropical storm high wind watch for Dallas and other counties as Claudette slowly moved toward landfall.

“We thought she would move more in our direction,” said Rhonda Abbott, interim director of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency. “But she shifted more toward the west and Mississippi.”

The result: some rainfall and a few wind gusts but not nearly the 3-to-5 inches of rain and the 35-to-70 mph winds expected in Central Alabama through Monday morning and into the afternoon.

South Alabama was hit Monday morning with waves of rain, but nothing else as the remnants of the storm moved further inland.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Birmingham said Covington County received the heaviest rainfall. Emergency management officials there said they had no reports of flooding or high winds.

Claudette made landfall early Monday morning near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and was downgraded to a tropical depression with winds of about 30 mph.

The storm resulted in one death in Florida. A man in his mid-20s died after being pulled from surf as Claudette approached Sunday.

In Bay County, Fla., authorities searched for another man whose boat ran aground Sunday night, though they believe he eventually made it ashore.

Authorities have yet to release either man’s identity.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Ana continued her course toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Ana was poorly organized and weakening, but the heavy rains could cause some damage in Haiti.

Further out in the Atlantic is Hurricane Bill. It’s too soon to tell if the first named hurricane in the Atlantic will threaten the eastern coast of the U.S., according to John Cangialosi, a meteorologist at the Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Bill is not expected to threaten Florida. Cangialosi called the system large and said it wold become a powerful hurricane.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.