Gordon lashes Florida Panhandle as Gulf Coast preps for storm surge
(CNN)Tropical Storm Gordon's outer bands are dropping rain on the Florida Panhandle as the storm aims to smack the Gulf Coast on Tuesday night -- possibly as a hurricane -- with potentially life-threatening storm surge across parts of coastal Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, forecasters said.Seawater could spill onshore as high as 3 to 5 feet, spelling significant trouble for roads and towns along the coast."If you are less than 3 to 5 feet above sea level (in the warning area), you need to get away from that water, especially up those rivers, because that's where that water will be going," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Tuesday morning.TRACK GORDON HERE After marching up from the Florida Keys and lashing South Florida on Monday with rain, Gordon wascentered late Tuesday morning over the Gulf of Mexico, about 145 miles east-southeast of the Mississippi River's mouth, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.Gordon is expected to strengthen into a hurricane, with sustained winds of at least 74 mph, before it reaches the north central Gulf Coast late Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said. This forecast cone, created 8 a.m. ET Tuesday, shows the probable range of Gordon's center into Wednesday morning.But tropical storm conditions -- winds of at least 39 mph -- could hit the Gulf Coast as early as Tuesday afternoon.Schools in parts of coastal Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi were closed Tuesday, and others announced they would open for only part of their normal day.Gordon could drop heavy rain -- generally 4 to 8 inches, but as many as 12 -- from Florida's western panhandle to southern Arkansas through Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Floodgates close near New OrleansAcross the region, governments and residents are making preparations.In coastal Mississippi's Jackson County, people filled bags with sand at government distribution points Monday, intending to line their homes with them to avert flooding.Among them was Jose Rivera, who moved from Puerto Rico to Mississippi after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last year, CNN affiliate WLOX reported.Rivera said he is worried about Gordon."He said he doesn't want the same thing that happened in Puerto Rico over here," Rivera's grandson, translating from Spanish, told the station.Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared emergencies. Edwards also activated 200 National Guard members.In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a voluntary evacuation notice for areas outside the levee system.The city expects to feel the storm's impact beginning late Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday, she said. City Hall and government offices will close Tuesday for nonessential employees. In anticipation of heavy rains, the Flood Protection Authority-East (FPA) closed 38 floodgates, 13 valve gates and a concrete barge gate on the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier near New Orleans, according to a news release. Another seven floodgates and the Caernarvon Sector Gate were set to be closed Tuesday.The gates are in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, primarily along the Industrial Canal and susceptible to high-tide conditions if not closed, the city said. Levee overtopping and breaches at these locations in 2005 led to devastating flooding from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, the city's eastern swath and in St. Bernard Parish.As of Monday night, the FPA did not anticipate that three pump stations and closure structures at Lake Pontchartrain would be activated but was is prepared to do so if the forecast changes and water levels reach key thresholds, according to the press release.