Families filled sandbags, took patio furniture inside and stocked up on batteries and bottled water as the Gulf Coast in the southern United States prepared for Tropical Storm Gordon, which could strengthen and become the second hurricane to hit the region in less than a year.
Just hours before the storm was expected to come ashore, a few people remained on the beach, soaking in the sun before the tropical rain bands became more numerous.
Others did their familiar pre-storm preparation rituals, including the staff at The Hotel Whiskey in Pass Christian, Mississippi, only about a block from the coast.
The hotel restaurant planned to stay open on Tuesday evening as usual, fortified by sandbags to keep out torrential rains, the manager said.
“All the outside furniture has to come in, but honestly it’s not even a freak-out kind of hurricane, so we’re not super-stressed right now,” Ashley Peeples said around midday on Tuesday.
Gulfport was providing sand and bags to residents, and Kenny Macdonald was filling them up for himself and older residents.
“This is kind of routine to some degree,” Macdonald said. “You don’t know what the intensity of the storm is going to be. You don’t want to take it lightly, of course.”
A hurricane warning was in effect for the entire Mississippi and Alabama coasts with the possibility Gordon would become a Category 1 storm. The National Hurricane Center predicted a “life-threatening” storm surge of 0.9 to 1.5 metres along parts of the central Gulf Coast.
Flooding also was a risk. As much as 20 centimetres of rain could fall in some parts of the Gulf states through late on Thursday as the tropical weather moves inland toward Arkansas.
By Tuesday afternoon, the storm was centered 155 kilometres southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi, with top sustained winds of 110 km/h. Forecasters said it was possible Gordon’s winds might meet the 120 km/h threshold to be a hurricane before making landfall later Tuesday.
The last hurricane to strike the US was Nate last October, coming ashore in Biloxi with 120 km/h winds.
Governors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all declared states of emergency, allowing them to mobilize state resources and National Guard troops to help during and after the storm.
Mississippi shut down a dozen Gulf Coast casinos as the storm neared. Workers on at least 54 oil and gas production platforms were evacuated.
Gordon became a tropical storm on Monday near the Florida Keys, so residents and businesses rushed preparations on Tuesday. But for some people, it was just another beach day with a bit of a breeze.