Gordon expected to hit Gulf Coast as hurricane after nightfall
GULFPORT, Miss. — Families filled sandbags, took patio furniture inside and stocked up on batteries and bottled water as the Gulf Coast prepared Tuesday for Tropical Storm Gordon, which was forecast to become the second hurricane to hit the region in less than a year.
Just hours before the storm was expected to come ashore, a few people remained on the beach, soaking in the sun before the tropical rain bands became more numerous. Others did their familiar pre-storm preparation rituals, including the staff at The Hotel Whiskey in Pass Christian, Miss., only about a block away from the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel restaurant planned to stay open Tuesday evening as usual, fortified by sandbags to keep out torrential rain, the manager said.
Tropical Storm Gordon may strengthen into a hurricane by the time it makes landfall near the Mississippi and Alabama border tonight.The latest on the storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast: https://t.co/ca7LmQZadQ pic.twitter.com/4WDSAee3cB
— ABC News (@ABC) September 4, 2018
“All the outside furniture has to come in, but honestly it’s not even a freak-out kind of hurricane, so we’re not super-stressed right now,” Ashley Peeples said around midday Tuesday.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the entire Mississippi and Alabama coasts with predictions Gordon would become a Category 1 storm. The National Hurricane Center predicted a “life-threatening” storm surge of 3 to 5 feet along parts of the central Gulf Coast.
Tropical Storm Gordon continues to move toward the Central Gulf Coast this afternoon. Maximum sustained winds remain at 65 mph… pic.twitter.com/9R0CKjsHPO
— James Spann (@spann) September 4, 2018
Flooding was also a risk. As much as 8 inches of rain could fall in some parts of the Gulf states through late Thursday as the tropical weather moves inland toward Arkansas.
By Tuesday afternoon, the storm was centered 145 miles southeast of Biloxi, Miss., with top sustained winds of 65 mph, forecasters said. It was moving relatively quickly, at about 15 mph.
The last hurricane to strike the United States was Nate in October, coming ashore in Biloxi with 75 mph wind.
Governors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all declared states of emergency for Gordon, allowing them to quickly mobilize state resources and National Guard troops to help during and after the storm.
Gordon became a tropical storm Monday near the Florida Keys, so residents and businesses rushed preparations Tuesday. But for some people, it was just another beach day with a bit of a breeze.
Morgan Kearley took the potted plants off her porch Tuesday before heading to the beach at Bay St. Louis with her husband, their daughter and a niece and nephew. They stayed near the edge of the water as a stiff breeze from the south rarely relented.
UPDATE: wave action increasing a bit on Mobile Bay near the bridge to Dauphin Island, AL. Max elevation on island is 7′ so most of Island will likely be inundated by storm surge tonight with #Gordon . Will be reporting live for @accuweather on @DIRECTV all night pic.twitter.com/j53C5bDLXL
— Reed Timmer (@ReedTimmerAccu) September 4, 2018
“I think we’ve had worse in the past,” Kearley’s husband, Shane, said.
Mayors of barrier islands in the storm’s path warned that their communities might get cut off from the mainland. Gordon appeared to be coming toward Dauphin Island, Ala., closer to low tide around 7 p.m. Tuesday. Police planned to monitor the only highway to the mainland.
“When you get the higher waves, water starts splashing across. Sometimes it starts pushing not only water across but debris, logs and things of that nature, which makes it very treacherous to get across,” Mayor Jeff Collier said.
Gordon was poised for only a glancing blow to New Orleans, where Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city has “the pumps and the power” needed to protect residents.
Authorities issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas outside the city’s levee protection system, including the Venetian Isles, Lake Saint Catherine and Irish Bayou communities.
Tropical Storm Gordon is really churning up the Gulf. Here is the afternoon view from the Cotton Bayou Public Beach Access. This is the reason why the Gulf is closed to the public with double red flags flying. @spann #alwx pic.twitter.com/WtQ0IEQsGF
— City of Orange Beach (@cityorangebeach) September 4, 2018
L. J. Cazaux moved his boat to a nearby lot of elevated land before the rain started in Venetian Isles. He elevated his house off the ground after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has food, water and two generators.
“You just blend it into your lifestyle when you live outside the levee system. You know you’re going to flood before anyone else does. The good part about it is the water goes down faster here,” said Cazaux, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years.
Gordon wasn’t the only storm being watched by forecasters. Hurricane Florence was some 2,400 milesaway from the U.S., and another potential storm was likely to form not far off the coast of Africa and head east.
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) September 4, 2018
The National Hurricane Center said it is way too early to know if either of those storms will have any impact on land.
“It’s the peak of hurricane season. Now is the time to get your plans all set,” Hurricane Director Ken Graham said.