Preparing, but not panicking, along the coast
Although Gordon is not expected to cause anything approaching the catastrophic destruction of 2017’s major hurricanes, the governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have all declared states of emergency and are urging residents not to take the storm lightly.
“Alabama is postured for a coastal wind and water event, but the key will be preparation of our citizens,” said Brian E. Hastings, the director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. “If you live in the coastal counties, especially in surge- and flood-prone areas, it is imperative that you get to a safe place by early afternoon and stay there through Wednesday morning.”
Many schools along the coast were closed Tuesday morning, and others are expected to dismiss students early. Some districts announced that their classrooms would also be empty on Wednesday.
The city of Biloxi, Miss., ordered its harbors and marinas evacuated, affecting about 300 vessels. But local leaders were plainly trying to avoid prompting any wide panic.
“We’re asking people to do the same things that we’re doing: prepare,” Mayor Andrew Gilich said in a statement. “There’s no reason to be alarmed. We’re being told to expect rain and wind, and we’re preparing accordingly. We expected our citizens to be doing the same.”
New Orleans watches warily
Although New Orleans, the economic and cultural center of the coast, is not expected to suffer a direct strike, the city’s new mayor, LaToya Cantrell, issued an emergency declaration and a voluntary evacuation order for certain neighborhoods. A handful of Louisiana parishes handed out sandbags to residents.
New Orleans has struggled with drainage issues, but the city’s Sewerage and Water Board said this week that it was prepared for this storm. Almost all of the city’s drainage pumps are available, the authorities said, and the drainage system is ready to self-generate more electricity to run the pumps than it had been able to do for at least a decade.
The storm will also be a test for a new city official. Tuesday is the first formal day on the job for Ghassan Korban, who was recently named the executive director of the Sewerage and Water Board; he was formerly the public works commissioner in Milwaukee, where snowstorms are a more frequent problem than cyclones.
The coast has faced other hurricanes since Harvey
The Gulf Coast most recently contended with a hurricane last October, when Nate made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category One storm. That storm had already caused substantial destruction and dozens of deaths in Central America, but its impact in the United States was less severe: $225 million in damage and two fatalities.
In May, the first named Atlantic storm of 2018, Alberto, made landfall near Laguna Beach, Fla., just northwest of Panama City. The storm’s heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides across the South, including in North Carolina, where two television journalists were killed when a tree struck their vehicle.
A more muted hurricane season after 2017’s terrors
September is often the peak of hurricane season, and so far at least, the 2018 season has not shaped up to be nearly as deadly or expensive as 2017, when three immense storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — assaulted the United States with heavy winds and rains.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lowered its forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season last month, and said it now expected no more than 13 named storms for the year. In May, forecasters were anticipating as many as 16 named storms. Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November.
Other dangers in the Atlantic — but none are imminent
The third tropical storm to reach hurricane strength in the Atlantic this season was the one ahead of Gordon, named Florence. But it has not strayed anywhere near the North American mainland. On Tuesday morning it was almost 1,300 miles east-northeast of the Lesser Antilles and is not expected to be a threat in the next five days.
There is also a “tropical wave” — the seed of a potential hurricane — off the western coast of Africa, where Atlantic storms tend to get their start. Forecasters believe it will strengthen to the next level, a tropical depression, in a few days. If it develops into a named storm, it will be called Helene.
How you can track Gordon and Florence?: The National Hurricane Center regularly posts updates, including maps with the projected paths of storms and details about watches and warnings, on its website.
How do hurricanes get their names?
We’re glad you asked. Here’s an article from 2016 exploring that subject.
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