ORLANDO, Fla. - Tropical Storm Gordon lashed South Florida with heavy rains and high winds on Monday and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane when it hits the central U.S. Gulf Coast.
Locally, what does it mean?
The weather system is expected to bring bands of rain to the Orlando area as it treks into the Gulf.
“With Tropical Storm Gordon moving across South Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico, it is important for Floridians and our visitors to remain vigilant," Gov. Rick Scott said. "Right now, the primary impact of the storm is heavy rainfall across the southern part of the state. Heavy rainfall and potential flooding is also expected in the Panhandle in the coming days."
Scott said Floridians should monitor local news reports for the latest on the storm.
"State emergency management professionals are remaining in constant communication with local officials to ensure that any needs are met, and we will continue to closely track this storm throughout the day and the beginning of next week," Scott said.
What's the latest?
Gordon formed into a tropical storm near the Florida Keys early Monday as it moved west-northwest at 17 mph. The storm is expected to reach hurricane strength when it hits the Gulf Coast, including coastal Mississippi, by late Tuesday. From there, it is forecast to move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday.
The National Hurricane Center said at 11 p.m. that the storm was centered 330 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 60 mph.
Warnings are posted
A hurricane warning was put into effect for the area stretching from the mouth of the Pearl River in Mississippi to the Alabama-Florida border. As much as 8 inches of rain could fall in some parts of the Gulf states through late Thursday.
The Miami-based center said the storm is also expected to bring “life-threatening” storm surge to portions of the central Gulf Coast. A storm surge warning has been issued for the area stretching from Shell Beach, Louisiana, to Dauphin Island, Alabama. The warning means there is danger of life-threatening inundation. The region could see rising waters of 3 to 5 feet.
“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large waves,” the center said.
Meanwhile, in Louisiana ...
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Monday and said 200 National Guard troops will be deployed to southeastern Louisiana.
The storm’s predicted track had shifted slightly east as of Monday evening, meaning Louisiana is currently just outside the area under the hurricane warning. Still, the southeastern part of the state remains under a tropical storm warning and residents need to be prepared for the storm to shift west, Edwards said.
“This storm has every possibility to track further in our direction,” Edwards said during a news conference Monday evening.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell held an afternoon news conference and said the city has “the pumps and the power” needed to protect residents. But authorities issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas outside the city’s levee protection system, including the Venetian Isles, Lake Saint Catherine and Irish Bayou areas.
Cantrell urged residents within the levee protection area to stock up on supplies and shelter in place.
Threats remain in Florida
Miami Beach Police said via Twitter that the Labor Day holiday was “NOT a beach day,” with rough surf and potential rip currents. Red flags flew over Pensacola-area beaches in Florida’s Panhandle, where swimming and wading in the Gulf of Mexico was prohibited. More than 4,000 Florida Power & Light customers lost power Monday due to weather conditions.
The National Weather Service said conditions were “possible” for tornadoes in the affected parts of South Florida on Monday night.
The storm left many businesses on Florida’s Gulf Coast feeling shortchanged by the holiday weekend.
The area has already been heavily impacted by this summer’s so-called “red tide”— massive algae blooms that have caused waves of dead marine life to wash up along the coast.
Jenna Wright, owner of a coffee shop in Naples, Florida, told the Naples Daily News that she had expected higher numbers for the Labor Day weekend.
“This is normally a decent weekend, but the storm and red tide aren’t helping,” Wright said. “We’re a beach coffee shop, and if people can’t go to the beach, then we won’t get any customers.”
[LIVE RADAR: Track Gordon in video player above | WATCH: Gordon drenches Fort Lauderdale]
Rain bands from Gordon also reached Central Florida on Monday. The National Weather Service issued a hazardous outlook due to Gordon.
A brisk and moist easterly breeze associated with a strong tropical wave (now Gordon) will push numerous showers and scattered thunderstorms across east central Florida. Occasional lightning strikes, gusty winds to around 40 mph and brief torrential downpours will occur with some of these storms as they move to the west around 20 mph.
Numerous showers and scattered thunderstorms will develop in a moist and unstable tropical airmass associated with the approaching tropical wave. Storm motion will be to the west around 20 mph, which will limit the flooding potential for any individual storm. However, many areas are expected to receive repeated rounds of moderate to heavy rain which will have a cumulative effect through the day. Low lying and poor drainage areas will be prone to flooding.
RIP CURRENT IMPACT
Rough surf conditions will prevail due to a brisk onshore flow and an increasing ocean swell. Only enter the ocean near a lifeguard and never swim alone.
RIVER FLOOD IMPACT
The St. Johns River Above Lake Harney Near Geneva remains at Action Stage. The latest Stage is 6.7 feet at 9 a.m. Sunday. At 6.5 feet, minor flooding of a few feet will occur in low lying areas along the river.
Rain chances will be 50 percent for the rest of the week.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Florence has winds of 60 mph as it swirls in the open Atlantic. Florence is expected to stay out to sea.
"We are also watching the coast of Africa for a new area of development," News 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges said. "The Hurricane Center is giving it a 20 percent chance to develop over the next five days."
Highs in the Orlando area will be in the low-90s for the rest of the week.
The city of Orlando has a yearly rain surplus of 1.92 inches.
Watch News 6 and stay with ClickOrlando.com for updates.
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