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Dr. Alex Billioux, asst. state public health officer, right, watches, as Dr. Daniel Burch does sign interpretation, left, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, talks about the potential of Tropical Storm Cristobal hitting Louisiana during his Coronavirus press conference update Wednesday June 3, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. Edwards stated the state will move to Phase Two reopening protocols effective June 5th.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday issued an emergency declaration ahead of the expected Sunday landfall of Tropical Depression Cristobal, which is expected to bring heavy rains and potential flooding to parts of Louisiana. 

“While it is still too early to know for sure what impact Cristobal could have on Louisiana, now is the time to make your plans, which should include the traditional emergency items along with masks and hand sanitizer as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic,” Edwards said in a statement. 

Edwards added that a flash flood watch has been issued for much of the state in anticipation of heavy rain. 

Cristobal, which was a Tropical Depression as of Thursday afternoon, was expected to strengthen Friday once it moves over the Gulf of Mexico and regain its status as a tropical storm, meaning winds exceeding 39 mph. 

A flood watch is in effect for much of Southeast Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, through Tuesday morning. 

Edwards on Wednesday encouraged people to stock up on needed supplies ahead of the storm. 

"It looks like it has its sights set on Louisiana," he said. 

The governor said evacuations were not being considered as of Wednesday, but he noted the state's preparations for hurricane season are being complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness was working with the feds to get permission to house possible storm evacuees in hotels and motels instead of mega-shelters, and has worked to develop plans for social distancing inside shelters. 

He raised the possibility of the storm slowing down over Louisiana and dumping torrential amounts of rain, noting the August 2016 floods that devastated large swaths of south Louisiana. 

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com