Tropical Storm Cristobal, the third named tropical system of the Atlantic hurricane season, made landfall in southeastern Mexico early Wednesday and is forecast to continue lashing the country and parts of Central America with heavy rain and gusty winds into the end of the week.
Landfall occurred around 8:30 a.m. local time Wednesday near Atasta, Mexico, just to the west of the city of Ciudad Del Carmen in the state of Campeche. At the time of landfall, maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 km/h) were reported.
AccuWeather meteorologists expect the system to bring the risk of life-threatening flooding and mudslides with some locations expected to receive over 2 feet of rain (610 mm).
Cristobal became a tropical storm midday on Tuesday in the Bay of Campeche, located in the southwestern corner of the Gulf of Mexico.
"With the upgrade to tropical storm status, a new record has been set for the Atlantic basin. Cristobal has now become the earliest occurrence of a third named system in the Atlantic basin during any hurricane season in recorded history," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. The previous record was set during the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season.
Tropical storm warnings were issued by the National Hurricane Center along the Mexico coast from Veracruz to the city of Campeche on Tuesday and were still in effect early Wednesday morning. Tropical storm warnings west of Coatzacoalcos were cancelled late by late morning.
After becoming a tropical storm, Cristobal made a loop around the southern Bay of Campeche and moved southward before making landfall.
Reports of flooding in the streets have emerged from the state Tobasco all the way through the Yucatan Peninsula.
A total of 9,000 soldiers and National Guard members were put in position to help with preparations and relief work.
According to Tobasco Hoy, a local paper in Mexico, residents in at risk communities like El Bosque Rovirosa Segunda and La Costeñita were evacuated on Tuesday. On Tuesday, waves up to 10 feet (3 meters) high in the area forced one harbor master in the region to close a maritime terminal for the fourth day in a row for all vessel types.
"With Cristobal this close to land, and even making landfall on Wednesday, the storm is likely to lose some wind strength in the coming day or two," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.
Losing wind intensity may allow Cristobal to lose tropical storm status briefly and drop to a tropical depression.
Despite a possible drop in winds, heavy rainfall will continue to be the biggest threat to lives and property for southeastern Mexico into Friday.
Due to the serious flood threat from Cristobal over southern Mexico and northern Central America, Cristobal has been designated as a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale™ for Hurricanes. This rating applies to the storm's impacts on Mexico.
"The main impacts from Cristobal for Mexico will be rounds of heavy tropical rainfall through Friday night," Miller explained.
From Monday evening through early Wednesday morning, the city of Valladolid on the Yucatan Peninsula already reported 9.6 inches (243 mm) of rain. A highway on the Yucatan was reported to be flooded with rushing floodwaters.
After already soaking the region for several days, widespread rainfall amounts of 10-20 inches (250 to 500 mm) are possible. An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 30 inches (760 mm) is within reach, especially in the highest terrain.
Southeastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula are not the only regions that will feel the wrath of Cristobal through the end of the week.
"Cristobal continues to pull in moisture from the East Pacific Ocean into northern areas of Central America, drenching the region with heavy, tropical rainfall" said Miller.
Guatemala and El Salvador are the same areas that were hit badly by Tropical Storm Amanda over the past weekend, leading to widespread flooding and at least 20 deaths. Amanda was the first tropical storm to make landfall on the Pacific coast of Guatemala since 2010 and only the second in recorded history.
Parts of Nicaragua and Honduras also continue to endure heavy rainfall into Wednesday.
After swirling around in the Bay of Campeche through the end of the week, Cristobal is forecast to turn northward late on Friday and travel through the western Gulf of Mexico and toward the United States this weekend.
As this happens, rainfall will begin to diminish across southeastern Mexico and Central America. However, rough seas may linger along the Mexico Gulf Coast through the weekend.