MIAMI — Tropical Storm Gordon formed in the Florida Keys on Monday morning and is forecast to strengthen over the next 48 hours as it brings strong winds and heavy rain to the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said.
Gordon is already lashing south Florida with rain and tropical-storm-force winds. The storm will gather strength as it heads through the Gulf of Mexico and be at or near hurricane force as it makes landfall Tuesday night along the Mississippi or Alabama coast, the hurricane center said.
A hurricane watch is in place for the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, including the cities of Gulfport, Biloxi, and Mobile.
As of midday Monday, nearly 2 million people were under hurricane watches and storm surge warnings, and over 13 million people were under tropical storm warnings.
Gordon is headed west-northwest at 16 mph into the Gulf of Mexico and has maximum winds of 45 mph. The storm is forecast to pass over the Florida Keys on Monday, emerge over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by Monday evening and reach the central Gulf Coast by late Tuesday.
Geo Rodriguez decided to go for a walk on Hollywood Beach, north of Miami, on Monday morning and got caught in the storm. He captured video of people who were out and about, including a soaking-wet delivery person. Rodriguez said he is not concerned about the storm damaging his home
A tropical storm warning has been issued for portions of the central Gulf Coast from the Alabama-Florida border westward to east of Morgan City, Louisiana, including Lake Pontchartrain.
A storm surge watch is in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama border westward to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
“Gordon will bring heavy rainfall and tropical storm conditions to portions of South Florida and the Florida Keys today and a tropical storm warning is in effect for these areas,” the hurricane center said Monday.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a voluntary evacuation notice for areas outside of the New Orleans levee system ahead of Tropical Storm Gordon. Cantrell said the city expects to see impact of the storm beginning late Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday.
In anticipation of heavy rains, the Flood Protection Authority-East (FPA) has closed 21 floodgates on the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier near New Orleans, according to a press release from the City of New Orleans.
These gates are all in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, primarily along the Industrial Canal and susceptible to high-tide conditions if not closed, the city says.
At this time, the FPA does not anticipate that the three pump stations at Lake Pontchartrain will be activated, but it is prepared to do so if the forecast changes and water levels reach key thresholds, according to the press release.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted that Floridians and visitors should monitor the weather system and remain vigilant.
“Right now, according to @NHC_Atlantic, the biggest impact to our state will be heavy rain, but in Florida, we know how quickly weather can change,” he said.
“With the peak of hurricane season upon us, now is the time to get prepared. Make sure that you and your family have a plan in place in case of disaster.”