Tropical system will bring heavy rains and flooding to Gulf Coast
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Threats of high winds and rain from a rotating tropical weather system in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday caused the closure of coastal Louisiana oyster beds, forcing the postponement of the weekend’s celebrations. end of June in Mississippi and Alabama and could dampen Father’s Day tourism on the northern Gulf Coast.
Meteorologists said the system moving north in the Gulf of Mexico could turn into a tropical depression or tropical storm. A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida – stretching from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa-Walton County line in the Florida Panhandle. Flash flood watches extended along the coast of southeastern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle and well inland to Mississippi, Alabama and western Georgia.
“I hope he comes in and out,” said Greg Paddie, manager of Tacky Jack’s, a restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
The looming weather threatened Father’s Day tourism in an area that was already suffering economic losses during the coronavirus pandemic. In Mobile, Alabama, Ryan Schumann, president of the Alabama Deep Fishing Rodeo on neighboring Dauphin Island, could at least take comfort in the fact that the event is scheduled for next month, not this weekend.
But the disappointment was evident in the voice of Seneca Hampton, organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He had spent weeks organizing food trucks, vendors, a bounce house, makeup, burgers and free hot dogs for the event. It was highly anticipated after last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19, and in light of Juneteenth’s recent designation as a federal holiday.
“It’s something that means a lot to people, and there were some people who were disappointed, like ‘I already had in mind that I was coming over there to celebrate,'” said Hampton.
The Gautier event has been postponed until next month. A June 10 event in Selma, Alabama was postponed to August.
At noon on Friday, high winds and bands of rain hit the southern coast of New Orleans in Pensacola, Florida. A mid-morning advisory from the National Hurricane Center indicated that the system was centered about 220 miles (355 kilometers) south of Morgan City, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 km / h). It was moving north-northeast at 14 mph (22 km / h).
In the vulnerable parish of Plaquemines in Louisiana, the local government warned sailors that locks and a valve in the Empire community, near where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf, would close at noon. Health officials have ordered the closure of oyster harvesting areas along much of the Louisiana coast. Storms can push pollutants into oyster beds and authorities often suspend harvests in tropical weather until water quality can be tested after the storm.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday night. The move is an administrative step that authorizes the use of state resources to help with storm response efforts.
The system is expected to produce up to 20 centimeters of rain on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and up to 30 centimeters over the weekend along the central Gulf Coast of the United States.
The combination of the storm surge and the tide will cause flooding of normally dry areas near the coast by rising waters moving inland from the shore, the hurricane center said. The water could reach heights of around 1 to 3 feet (30 to 91 centimeters).
At Orange Beach, Paddie said Tacky Jack’s still had sandbags left over from his preparations for Hurricane Sally last year. This September storm, blamed for two deaths, threw ships on land, cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
There have already been two named storms in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Meteorologists expect the season to be busy, but not as crazy as the record-breaking 2020 season.
Mexico, while receiving rain from the storm in the Gulf, was also threatened by a storm in the Pacific. Tropical Storm Dolores formed Friday morning and is expected to make landfall Saturday night on the west-central coast of Mexico, likely near hurricane force, according to the National Hurricane Center.