Sunday, September 23, 2018

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Tropical-force winds, rain slam coast

Residents prepare as fast-moving Gordon threatens southern states

  • Tropical-Weather-25

    Laura Cunningham, 10, left, Hunter Shows, center, and Brandon Perry, 10, watch the waves crash from Tropical Storm Gordon on Tuesday in Dauphin Island, Ala.

    Associated Press

  • APTOPIX-Tropical-Weather-1-2

    Manuel Arias walks with a guard dog, Toto, past boats that were dry-docked inland in preparation for Tropical Storm Gordon, expected to make landfall as a hurricane later in the evening, in Pass Christian, Miss., Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    Gerald Herbert

  • Tropical-Weather-2-12

    Grass blows in the breeze in front of a boat that sunk from last year's Hurricane Nate, in advance of Tropical Storm Gordon, expected to make landfall as a hurricane this evening, in Pass Christian, Miss., Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    Gerald Herbert

  • Tropical-Weather-3-12

    John Cunningham, left, and Hunter Shows, right, watch the waves crash from Tropical Storm Gordon on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Dauphin Island, Ala. (AP Photo/Dan Anderson)

    Dan Anderson

  • Tropical-Weather-4-10

    Charles Bungart gets his boat out of the water as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Dauphin Island, Ala. (AP Photo/Dan Anderson)

    Dan Anderson

  • Tropical-Weather-Alabama-5

    Charles Bungart works to get his boat out of the water as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, in Dauphin Island, Ala. (AP Photo/Dan Anderson)

    Dan Anderson

  • Tropical-Weather-Florida-6-4

    Mitchell Nugent paddles a board toward waves near Crystal Beach as Tropical Storm Gordon churns the Gulf of Mexico in Destub, Fla., Tuesday Sept. 4, 2018, (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

    Devon Ravine

  • Tropical-Weather-7-6

    Beach vendors load beach chairs on the beach in Biloxi, Miss., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, as Tropical Storm Gordon heads toward the Mississippi coast. The storm could strengthen to a category 1 hurricane before making landfall later on Tuesday. (John Fitzhugh/The Sun Herald via AP)

    John Fitzhugh

  • Tropical-Weather-8-9

    Ken Graham, center, director of the National Hurricane Center speaks during a broadcast, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at the hurricane center in Miami. Boaters evacuated to safe harbors, and motorists fled barrier islands Tuesday as the Gulf Coast hustled to get ready for Tropical Storm Gordon, which was on track to hit Mississippi as a Category 1 hurricane sometime after nightfall. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    Wilfredo Lee

  • Tropical-Weather-9-10

    Sheets of rain and heavy clouds move into the city ahead of the landfall of Tropical Storm Gordon in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Matthew Hinton /The Advocate via AP)

    Matthew Hinton

  • Tropical-Weather-10-8

    Sheets of rain and heavy clouds move into the city ahead of the landfall of Tropical Storm Gordon in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. (Matthew Hinton /The Advocate via AP)

    Matthew Hinton

  • Tropical-Weather-Florida-11

    A woman uses a beach umbrella to stay dry as she crosses Scenic Highway 98 in Miramar Beach, Fla., Tuesday Sept. 4, 2018, as Tropical Storm Gordon makes its way past the Florida Panhandle. (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

    Devon Ravine

  • Tropical-Weather-12-8

    Krystal Flanagan, left, of Biloxi, Miss., and her son, Desmond Dentley, walk on the beach in Biloxi on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, as Tropical Storm Gordon heads toward the Mississippi coast. The storm could strengthen to a category 1 hurricane before making landfall later on Tuesday. (John Fitzhugh/The Sun Herald via AP)

    John Fitzhugh

  • Tropical-Weather-13-5

    Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center speaks during a broadcast, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at the hurricane center in Miami. Boaters evacuated to safe harbors, and motorists fled barrier islands Tuesday as the Gulf Coast hustled to get ready for Tropical Storm Gordon, which was on track to hit Mississippi as a Category 1 hurricane sometime after nightfall. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    Wilfredo Lee

GULFPORT, Miss. — Tropical-force winds from fast-moving Gordon smashed into the coastline of Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle on Tuesday evening, the frontal edge of a system just offshore that forecasters warned could become a hurricane by the time it makes landfall.

Tropical Storm Gordon strengthened some in the final hours as it neared the central Gulf Coast, clocking top sustained winds of 70 mph. The National Hurricane Center said Gordon’s tight core was about 75 miles southeast of Biloxi, Miss., or about 70 miles south of Mobile, Ala., where heavy rains and winds picked up shortly before nightfall.

Skies quickly turned dark gray as storms overshadowed Mobile, a port city. Metal chairs were lashed together atop tables outside a restaurant in what’s normally a busy entertainment district, and a street musician played to an empty sidewalk just before the rain began. Conditions were expected to deteriorate westward to New Orleans as the stormed closed in on the coast, possibly becoming the second hurricane to hit the region in less than a year.

Families along the coast filled sandbags, took patio furniture inside and stocked up on batteries and bottled water ahead of Gordon.

The staff at The Hotel Whiskey in Pass Christian, Mississippi — only about a block from the Gulf of Mexico — were among those carrying out pre-storm preparation rituals. The hotel restaurant planned to stay open Tuesday evening as usual, fortified by sandbags to keep out torrential rains, the manager said.

Gulfport was among communities providing sand and bags to residents, and Kenny Macdonald filled them for himself and older residents. MacDonald said that while such preparations become all too routine, one must remain wary.

“You don’t know what the intensity of the storm is going to be. You don’t want to take it lightly, of course,” MacDonald said.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the entire Mississippi and Alabama coasts with the possibility 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.

Flooding also was 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.

The last hurricane to strike the U.S. was Nate last October, coming ashore in Biloxi with 75 mph winds.

Governors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all declared states of emergency to better mobilize state resources and National Guard troops for the storm. Mississippi shut down a dozen Gulf Coast casinos. Workers on at least 54 oil and gas production platforms were evacuated.

Gordon became a tropical storm Monday near the Florida Keys.

Mayors of barrier islands in the storm’s path warned that their communities might get cut off from 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,” said Jeff Collier, mayor of Dauphin Island, Ala.

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.

L. J. Cazaux moved his boat to a nearby lot of elevated land before the rain started in one of the areas outside the protective system, 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 was not the only storm being watched by forecasters. Hurricane Florence was some 2,400 miles away from the U.S., and another potential storm was likely to form not far off the coast of Africa and head east.

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.


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