(CNN) — Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall Wednesday morning in Mexico, and if the storm holds together, it could loop back across the Gulf of Mexico and toward the United States by the weekend.
Cristobal made landfall in the early morning in the state of Campeche, with sustained winds of 60 mph. It hit land near Atasta, Mexico, just west of Ciudad del Carmen, the Air Force Reserve Unit Hurricane Hunter aircraft reported.
Life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides from ongoing extreme rains continued to be the biggest threat. Ten to 20 inches of additional rain could fall across this region through Friday.
Some Pacific locations in southern Mexico got 20 inches of rain over the weekend and could get up to a foot more.
Cristobal could be first US hurricane threat of the year
“The next 48 hours will tell a lot about the future prospects of Cristobal,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. “Now that the storm is over land, its center is cut off from the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche.”
Tropical storms feed off warm waters, and being cut off will allow for slight weakening.
“The forecast calls for it to move south for the next 24 hours before pulling a 180 and (it could) move back north again and reemerge into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday,” Miller said.
“That is a lot of time over land for a tropical storm to maintain its structure, so it is possible that Cristobal could fall apart completely.”
If the system survives, “strengthening is likely when it emerges back over the Gulf of Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Reemerging over the Gulf of Mexico with a central low-pressure center would allow the storm to quickly reorganize.
“It could even allow it to reach hurricane status before reaching the US Gulf Coast,” Miller said.
“There is still some question of how much strength this gains over the open Gulf of Mexico,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “But there is no question that the Gulf Coast will see significant rainfall and flooding possibilities either way.”
States along the Gulf Coast should closely monitor the situation during the next several days and have a plan in place, should a storm threaten the coast.
Either way, the 2020 hurricane season is only a few days old and is already an active one. Cristobal is now the third named storm of the season. It’s the earliest a third named storm has ever formed.