GULFPORT, Miss. - Sandbags were filled, patio furniture was taken inside and shoppers stocked up on batteries and bottled water as people along 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, which planned to stay open Tuesday night using sandbags to keep out water from the Gulf of Mexico, only a block away.
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.
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 late Tuesday morning, the storm was centered 145 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, with top sustained winds of 65 mph, forecasters said. It was moving relatively quickly, at about 15 mph.
The last hurricane to strike the U.S. was Nate in October, coming ashore in Biloxi with 75 mph winds.
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.
Gordon wasn’t 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 would have any impact on land.