DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. - Tropical Storm Gordon never became a hurricane but it was deadly all the same, killing a child by blowing a tree onto a mobile home as it made landfall. The storm weakened into a depression Wednesday but remained dangerous, dumping rain, spawning possible tornadoes and kicking up heavy surf in its wake.
Gordon struck the coast at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength, near Pascagoula, Mississippi late Tuesday. Forecasters said radar spotted possible tornados spun off by the storm overnight in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Parts of the panhandle had received more than 10 inches in 24 hours as of midday Wednesday.
Even as the system was weakening into a remnant low it still posed threats as it moved inland on a forecast track that would take its center northwest into Arkansas, then northeast toward the Great Lakes. Forecasters predicted total rain amounts of 4-8 inches in parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. Rainfall could be even more intense in isolated spots - up to 12 inches through early Saturday.
The only death reported as of Wednesday afternoon was the child killed late Tuesday when a large oak tree branch fell onto a mobile home in Pensacola, Florida.
Escambia county received 10 calls overnight for downed trees in roadways, along with multiple reports of arcing power lines as the storm blew through with peak gusts of 61 mph (98 kph). Beachgoers in the area were warned Wednesday of dangerous rip currents that prompted red-flag warnings, meaning it was illegal to enter the Gulf of Mexico.
Driftwood and other debris made for hazardous driving early Wednesday on the causeway to Dauphin Island, Alabama, which was partly flooded by seawater overnight, leaving people to drive over sand and around lawn furniture on the main road. Siding was peeled off some houses, but Mayor Jeff Collier said “for the most part, we did OK.”