Tropical Storm Gordon formed in the Florida Keys on Labor Day, leading to a hurricane watch with a projected path to make landfall on the Mississippi Coast with hurricane-force winds late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
A hurricane watch came as Mississippi Coast residents and visitors were enjoying a holiday weekend with spurts of sunshine and a chance of showers, and a few hours after the tropical cyclone became a named storm.
10:00 p.m. update
Gordon is still expected to make landfall as a hurricane, but the track has shifted slightly east near the Harrison-Jackson county line, according to the National Weather Service.
The three Coastal counties are still under hurricane watch and the NWS predicts the entire Mississippi Coast will be impacted by the storm.
Gordon is “moving quickly across the eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico” at 17 mph, the NWS said. The storm is still moving on a west northwest track.
However, Gordon is expected to slow down a bit as it strengthens in the Gulf over the next day, the NWS said.
7:00 p.m. update
Gordon’s winds increased to 60 mph and is expected to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service said.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is under hurricane watch.
Gordon is moving about 17 mph in a west northwest motion, the NWS said, and the storm will move into the eastern Gulf of Mexico overnight Monday.
Gordon will move into the north-central Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and and “will move inward over the lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday,” the NWS said.
South Mississippi rivers are expected to crest above flood level Wednesday morning as a result of Gordon, said Harrison County Emergency Manager Rupert Lacy.
Flood warnings are in effect for the Wolf River, Tchoutacabouffa River and Biloxi River.
The Wolf River is expected to crest at 8.5 feet Wednesday morning, and the Tchoutacabouffa River is expected to crest at 9 feet.
The Biloxi River is expected to crest at 15 feet on Wednesday.
“People who live in low-lying areas need to make what every preparations they can in the few hours they have remaining,” Lacy said.
Shoppers at a Neighborhood Walmart in Gulfport’s Orange Grove area found water shelves empty early Monday night as people began hurricane preparations.
“I don’t think anything’s going to happen but my grandmother told me to come get some stuff,” said Keomi Williams of Gulfport.
She filled her shopping cart with what she called “easy-to-fix stuff,” like canned tuna and chicken, and hot dogs. Williams said she was glad she’d already bought water and bread.
5:30 p.m. update
The peak wind forecast by late Monday afternoon was 50 to 65 mph with wind gusts of up to 85 mph, the National Weather Service said. Hurricane-force winds start at 74 mph, with a Category 1 having winds up to 95 mph. A Category 2 has winds of 111 mph to 129 mph.
Tropical-storm-force winds could reach coastal regions as early Tuesday afternoon, the hurricane center says.
The local forecast has changed, with an additional 4 to 8 inches of flooding rain expected, according to the NWS. The storm surge possibility also has increased to 3 to 5 feet.
The chance of rain from Gordon on the Coast has increased to 4 to 7 inches and possibly higher in some areas.
No tornadoes had been forecast, but that has changed for an area mainly east of McComb to the Slidell line.
The storm had been moving west-northwest at 16 mph and increased to 17 mph Monday afternoon.
The Popp’s Ferry Bridge in Biloxi opened to marine traffic late Monday afternoon, allowing boats seven minutes to pass every 20 to 30 minutes.
The storm was about 490 miles southeast of Gulfport by about 4 p.m. Monday.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is working with the coastal counties and will have a liaison at each of the three emergency operation centers.
Now is the time to come up with a family emergency plan and to listen to local officials, MEMA Executive Director Greg Michel said in a news release.
“We anticipate Gordon will produce widespread and heavy rainfall along the coastal counties,” Michel said.
“That rainfall combined with increased tidal surges are likely to result in localized flooding in the affected areas. Residents in those affected counties should also be prepared for tropical storm force winds and conditions that will favor isolated tornado threats not only along coastal counties but for South Mississippi in general.”
An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft put the estimated central pressure at 1006 mb (29.71 inches). The Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity measures wind scale, but also considers barometric pressure in millibars. A Category 1 hurricane would have a barometric pressure of greater than 980 millibars. The scale also considers height of storm surges.
Officials at some school districts have announced classes will end early on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard has advised owners of trailer-able boats to pull them from the water and tie them to trailers in areas that aren’t flood-prone.
Commercial vessels, large barges and all ocean-going barges and tugs have been told to report to the Coast Guard if they plan to ride out the storm at port or depart.
Most public harbors and marinas have announced mandatory evacuations.
2:25 p.m. update
The NWS issued a hurricane watch mid-morning Monday for regions from the mouth of the Pearl River near Pearlington in Hancock County to the Alabama-Florida border. The NWS issues a hurricane watch 48 hours before conditions are favorable, before tropical-storm-force winds are expected.
“All Gulf Coast residents need to monitor Gordon,” the NWS said in an alert.
An afternoon advisory from the hurricane center showed that once Gordon makes landfall on the Coast, the storm will reach southwest Mississippi, the area above southeast Louisiana, by around 8 a.m. Wednesday.
A tropical storm warning and a storm surge watch also are in effect for Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties and parishes in southeast Louisiana, and east of the Mississippi-Alabama border to Shell Beach, Fla., according to the NWS in New Orleans. The storm surge warning was updated to cover from east of Dauphin Island in Alabama to Navarre Beach in Florida.
Gordon had maximum sustained winds near 45 mph with higher gusts Monday, with the winds expected to strengthen over the next two days, the weather service said.
Rain doused south Florida with heavy rain Monday morning and knocked down power lines as Gordon moved across the state, the Miami Herald reports. The storm was moving west-north west at 16 mph.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 45 miles from the center, the weather service said.
As much as 3 to 6 inches of rain are forecast across coastal Mississippi and southeast Louisiana over the next few days, and higher amounts could occur, the weather service said in a news bulletin Monday morning.
The latest forecast shows the potential for life-threatening storm surge in surge-prone areas. Significant wind damage also is possible, the National Weather Service said.
Tropical showers and thunderstorms can be expected across the region starting Monday through much of Wednesday, the weather service says. Rainfall is likely to come in bands.
The peak wind forecast on the Mississippi Coast on Monday was 15 to 25 mph with wind gusts of 35 mph.
The local forecast shows the potential for a peak storm surge of 2 to 4 feet above ground in surge-prone areas through early Thursday afternoon.
Lightning is likely, and waterspouts and tropical funnels could occur Tuesday and Wednesday and some could come ashore, according to the weather service.
A flash flood watch is in effect starting about noon Tuesday and ending about midnight Wednesday, the NWS says. Heavy rainfall could lead to flash flooding.
Flooding from rainfall may call for evacuations in some areas in Southwest Mississippi, mainly west of Interstate 55, and north of I-10 in Southeast Louisiana, the weather service advised.
Emergency Operations Centers in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties have prepared for 24-hour operations and announced the availability of sand bags.
SunHerald.com will continue to update related public safety information.
- Hancock County Arena — 4184 Kiln Delisle Road, Kiln
- Hancock County Old Complex — 3068 Longfellow Drive, Bay St. Louis
- Lakeshore Community Center — 6440 Lower Bay Road, Lakeshore
- West Hancock Fire Department — 16006 Washington St., Pearlington
- Bayside Fire Department — 6215 West Hinds St.
- Diamondhead City Hall — 5000 Diamondhead Circle
- Harbor Pavilion on U.S. 90, Long Beach
- Courthouse Road Pier parking lot on U.S. 90, Gulfport
- Harrison County Road Department, 10076 Lorraine Road (Mississippi 605), Gulfport
- Harrison County District One Work Center, 10085 Doris Deno/Rodriquez, D’Iberville
- Fire Station No. 9, 9370 Oaklawn Road, Biloxi
- Popp’s Ferry Soccer Fields, 2150 Popp’s Ferry Road, Biloxi
- West Division Roads Dept., N. Washington Ave. (MS 609), Ocean Springs
- Central Division Roads Dept., 8500 Jim Ramsey Road, Vancleave
- Forts Lake Fire Department, 10701 Forts Lake Road
- East Division Roads Dept., 10825 MS 63, Moss Point
- St. Andrews Fire Dept., 1401 Elm St.
- Escatawpa VFD, 3801 Sentinel Drive, Moss Point
- Jackson County Fairgrounds Barn, Pascagoula
- Behind Moss Point Central Fire Station, 4202 Bellview St.
- Behind Gautier City Hall, 3300 U.S. 90
- Ocean Springs Public Works, 712 Pine Drive
Central Jackson County Shelter, 5500 Ballpark Road, Vancleave, opens at noon Tuesday. (Time subject to change due to storm track and strength.)
What to bring to a shelter: Bedding, a change of clothes, medications, snacks, an emergency kit, small toys for children. Alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs and weapons are not allowed.
- Bay St. Louis schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Harrison County schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Pass Christian schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Jackson County schools will dismiss two hours earlier Tuesday. No decision has been made about Wednesday.
- Ocean Springs schools will be closed Tuesday. The annual homecoming parade on Wednesday is canceled. A determination about Wednesday classes will be determined by Noon on Tuesday.
- Pascagoula-Gautier schools will dismiss earlier Tuesday: K-4 and the Exceptional School dismiss at noon; academies and the Opportunity Center dismiss at 12:15 p.m.; middle and high schools dismiss at 1 p.m. A decision on Wednesday will be made by noon Tuesday.
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will close all its campuses and centers at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. No decision has been made on Wednesday.
Don’t leave pets chained or penned up outside and don’t leave them unsupervised in a car, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Some emergency shelters may turn animals away, but motels may accept them in an emergency. Secure small animals in carriers and keep dogs leashed. Take water food and bowls, a favorite toy, a blanket, a towel and enough food for at least a week, PETA says.
SunHerald.com will update this report.