Tropical Storm Gordon races toward US gulf coast

Trees sway as Storm Gordon descends on Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US. (Reuters pic)

LOUISIANA: Tropical Storm Gordon on Tuesday barrelled toward central US gulf coast, where it was expected to become a hurricane and bring high winds and heavy rain to the region, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

The storm was gaining strength and was expected to become a hurricane as it comes ashore late on Tuesday near the border between Louisiana and Mississippi, and drop as much as 8 inches (20cm) of rain in some areas of the US south still reeling from hurricanes a year ago.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, saying 200 Louisiana National Guardsmen were being deployed, along with 63 high-water trucks, 39 boats, and 4 helicopters.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency warned of storm surges of between 3ft and 5 ft (1m and 1.5m) and told South Mississippi residents to be prepared to evacuate.

Gordon was generating winds of 65 mph (105kmh) on Tuesday as it steamed west-northwest at 17mph, the National Hurricane Centre said.

Gordon was located about 280 miles (450km) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was packing maximum sustained winds of 65mph (100kmh), the Miami-based weather forecaster said.

By Monday afternoon the storm had passed over Florida’s southern tip. There were no reports of any injuries or deaths or any damages to buildings, said Alberto Moscoso, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has declared a state of emergency for her city, closing all non-essential government offices on Tuesday.

Last year, powerful hurricanes walloped Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, causing thousands of deaths, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage, massive power outages and devastation to hundreds of thousands of structures.

At the mouth of the Mississippi River, around the area of New Orleans, the storm could generate a surge of up to 4ft (1.2m) and smaller surges could hit coastland along other parts of the Gulf Coast, the Miami-based hurricane centre said.

US oil producer Anadarko Petroleum Corp on Monday evacuated workers and shut production at two offshore oil platforms, and other companies with production and refining operations along the Gulf Coast said they were securing facilities.

The US Coast Guard also warned that the ports of New Orleans as well as Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi, may have to close within 48 hours when gale force winds from Gordon are expected to arrive.