Schools were closing and states of emergency were being declared as the Gulf Coast braced for the heavy rains, high winds and storm surge of Tropical Storm Gordon, forecast to make landfall as a hurricane late Tuesday in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama.
“I have declared a state of emergency in advance of Tropical Storm #Gordon, making state resources and personnel available to affected areas,” Mississippi Gov. Phil
Bryant tweeted. “Please stay weather-aware.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards also declared a state of emergency, saying hundreds of National Guard members would be deployed in coastal areas. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey did the same: “All coastal Alabama residents need to prepare now ahead of tonight’s potential landfall,” she tweeted. “Our state will be ready for whatever Gordon may bring,”
The governors of Florida and Texas said they were monitoring developments.
The National Hurricane Center called the storm “life threatening” and warned that tornadoes were possible in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The hurricane warning stretched from the Pearl River that separates Mississippi and Louisiana to the Alabama-Florida border.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency began to set up a number of locations for residents to pick up sandbags. In Biloxi, Miss., Mary Smith was stocking up on supplies.
“Cold drinks, bread and you know canned foods,” Smith said, listing her purchases.
More: Airlines waive change fees ahead of Tropical Storm Gordon
More: Tropical Storm Gordon threatens Gulf Coast; hurricane warning in place
Gordon is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain over the western Florida Panhandle, southwest Alabama, southern and central Mississippi, eastern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, the National Weather Service said. Isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches could pound the area through late Thursday, and flash flooding is expected for much of the region.
Gordon took form as a tropical storm near the Florida Keys early Monday, blasting South Florida with high winds and hours of heavy rains. After hitting the Gulf Coast as an expected hurricane, it is forecast to move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday.
“Fast movement and wind shear should limit the intensity of Gordon, but the storm will be monitored closely as the water is quite warm,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
As of 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, the storm was centered 145 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, forecasters said. Maximum sustained winds had reached 65 mph. A Category 1 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph.
The hurricane center also issued a storm surge warning, meaning possible “danger of life-threatening inundation” for the area stretching from Shell Beach, Louisiana, to Dauphin Island, Alabama.
“The track now appears headed more toward southern Mississippi and Alabama, but it might still clip extreme southeastern Louisiana,” said Don Wheeler, a USA TODAY Network correspondent meteorologist.
Regardless of whether Louisiana takes a direct hit, Wheeler said southeastern Louisiana can expect storm surge and some coastal flooding.
“The water’s going to pile up as the storm approaches landfall, so even though this isn’t a catastrophic system, it remains dangerous with the ability to inflict damage,” he said.
Far out in the Atlantic Ocean, about 2,400 miles from Miami, Tropical Storm Florence strengthened into a hurricane Tuesday morning. It’s now the third hurricane of the 2018 season.
Florence poses no threat to land for at least the next several days. Whether it heads for the U.S. East Coast or Bermuda – or heads harmlessly out to sea – remains to be seen, according to weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue.
Forecasters warned last week that activity in the Atlantic basin was expected to ramp up in September. That prediction follows an unusually quiet August for the Atlantic, which saw no hurricanes form there for the first time since 2013.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 to Nov. 30; September is generally the peak month. The 2017 hurricane season featured several monster storms such as Harvey, Irma and Maria among the 10 that formed in the Atlantic.
Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY; Greg Hilburn, Monroe (La.) News Star; WWLTV.com