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Deadly tropical depression Claudette expected to strengthen over North Carolina

Tropical Depression Claudette, which sparked destructive tornadoes and flooding on the Gulf Coast and is linked to a car crash that killed 10 in Alabama, is expected to strengthen as North Carolina approaches overnight officials said on Sunday.

Claudette was near Athens, Georgia on Sunday afternoon and was due to reach the North Carolina coast on Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The weather system’s maximum sustained winds of 30 mph will likely increase as it becomes an overnight tropical storm, the agency said. Tropical storm force winds can reach 70 mph.

The storm, which formed Saturday morning, hit parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle, producing rainfall of up to 15 inches in some areas, the ‘agency.

The crash happened in southern Alabama, where authorities believe a hydroplaning car triggered a chain reaction accident on I-65. Several vehicles collided, killing eight girls aged 4 to 17 who were traveling in a small bus belonging to a residential youth hostel.

A 29-year-old man, Cody Fox, and his 9-month-old baby Ariana were also killed in the crash, Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock said.

Water from Tropical Storm Claudette floods a neighborhood after the storm swept through Slidell, Louisiana on Saturday.Gerald Herbert / AP

The local sheriff’s office called the incident “the worst ever” in the county.

The storm also reportedly caused a tornado in the Brewton, Alabama area where Mayor Yank Lovelace said there had been “a lot of damage.” Photos posted by the mayor and a video posted by NBC affiliate WVTM show homes that appear to have been destroyed during the storm.

Images released by the station also showed heavy flooding in the town of Northport. Just outside the nearby town of Tuscaloosa, a 24-year-old man and a 3-year-old boy were killed when a storm knocked a tree down on their mobile home, NBC affiliate WBRC reported.

In Slidell, Louisiana, authorities carried out several rescues after dozens of cars got stuck on the roads, NBC affiliate KPLC reported.

Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer told he hasn’t seen such severe flooding in 25 years.

“The difference between then and last night was in 1995, we had 25 inches of rain in 24 hours,” he told the site. “Last night we had 10 to 12 in three hours.”

“If we had had a fourth hour,” he added, “we would have seen a substantial amount of damage this morning.”

Claudette is expected to weaken into a post-tropical cyclone on Tuesday, forecasters from the National Hurricane Center said.

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