September 3, 2018

What You Need to Know About Tropical Storm Gordon Before Going to Bed

Tropical Storm Gordon is gathering strength in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as it heads toward landfall on the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday evening. The storm will likely make landfall on the Mississippi coast, exposing Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Mobile to the strongest winds, roughest surf, and deepest storm surge. Gordon could reach hurricane strength by landfall. Here's what you need to know about the storm before you go to bed tonight.

  • WINDS: Gordon's internal structure has improved since the storm moved off the Florida Peninsula on Monday afternoon. While it's not all that impressive on satellite imagery, aircraft flying recon through the storm found 60 MPH winds late Monday evening. The storm is forecast to be a category one hurricane at landfall. It will have similar impacts whether it reaches land as a strong tropical storm or a hurricane.

  • ARRIVAL: The NHC says that the "earliest reasonable arrival time" of tropical storm force winds (39+ MPH) is 8:00 AM CDT on Tuesday along the Florida Panhandle near Panama City Beach and around mid-afternoon closer to Mobile. The storm is expected to approach landfall near Pascagoula, Mississippi, just after sunset, but that could change by an hour or two if the storm speeds up or slows down a bit.

  • HEAVY RAIN: The greatest threat posed by Gordon is flooding from heavy rain. A swath of three to six inches of rain is possible along the storm's path from landfall in Mississippi through dissipation in Oklahoma. Higher totals are likely in any training bands and thunderstorms.

  • NO LOITERING: Gordon is moving quickly. It won't be a prolonged storm. The storm will keep moving rather than stall-out like so many other Gulf storms in recent years, limiting the length of time heavy rain affects any one area. Training thunderstorms could lead to more rainfall than forecast, increasing the chances of flash flooding in these areas.

  • STORM SURGE: A storm surge is possible along and to the east of the track of the storm. An inundation of three or more feet is possible in some areas. The potential for a deeper surge increases with the storm's size and strength.

  • TORNADOES: Tornadoes are possible to the right of the storm's forward motion, which will include Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. Tropical tornadoes happen quickly, affording forecasters less time than normal to issue tornado warnings. It's important to closely watch the radar and listen to warnings. Act quickly if you're under a warning.

  • GO JAGS: I went to college in Mobile. I know the area and I know how well-prepared the area is for a storm like this. But I also know how hard-headed people can be about storms that aren't scale-topping monsters. The region is susceptible to flash flooding from heavy rain. Gordon shouldn't be that big of a deal as far as landfalling tropical cyclones go, but any one storm is a threat if you encounter flooding, a tornado, falling and flying debris, or an extended power outage.

  • BE PROACTIVE: You can keep track of updates on Gordon (and all tropical cyclones) by checking the National Hurricane Center's website. The agency issues official forecasts every six hours with intermediate updates every three hours when watches and warnings are in effect.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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