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Wednesday November 20th, 2019 10:09AM

The Latest: Tropical storm strengthens on approach to coast

By The Associated Press

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on Tropical Storm Gordon (all times local):

5 p.m.

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Gordon has strengthened a little as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the center of the storm is about 95 miles (155 kilometers) southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.

Gordon's top sustained winds have now reached 70 mph (110 kph). Forecasters say it could still reach the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to become a hurricane before hitting land late Tuesday.

Heavy rain is already falling over western Florida and is expected to spread west along the coast to New Orleans.

A hurricane warning is in effect for all the Alabama and Mississippi coast. Forecasters say the region could see life-threatening, rising waters of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters).

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3:10 p.m.

Tropical Storm Gordon has disrupted some oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and closed casinos in Mississippi.

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says workers on at least 54 production platforms have been evacuated in advance of Gordon. That is about 8 percent of the staffed platforms in the Gulf and about 9 percent of the region's oil and natural gas production.

In Mississippi, state officials are ordering 12 casinos along the Gulf Coast to close as Gordon approaches.

Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey says the commission has ordered gambling halls to close at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Such closures are typical in advance of tropical storms and hurricanes, because casinos are in waterfront locations. While casinos themselves typically don't flood, access roads and parking areas often do.

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2:55 p.m.

Workers are uprooting traffic signal boxes along a beachfront highway in Mississippi and lowering tall traffic lights in advance of the arrival of Tropical Storm Gordon.

Mississippi Department of Transportation spokesman Jason Scott says about 50 signal control boxes are being removed along U.S. 90, which parallels the Mississippi Sound and could go underwater in Gordon's storm surge.

Workers are also lowering dozens of lights from high masts along nearby Interstate 10.

The DOT is locking three drawbridges into place, meaning no more tall boats can move inland to safety. Workers will then remove long-armed warning gates to keep them from blowing away.

Crews are also on standby to remove sand and debris from U.S. 90 and other roadways after the storm.

Forecasters say Gordon should become a hurricane shortly before striking land along or near the Mississippi coast late Tuesday.

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2:35 p.m.

A barrier island on Alabama's coast is virtually abandoned as Tropical Storm Gordon moves toward a landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Water was already over part of the main road on Dauphin Island south of Mobile on Tuesday afternoon, and big waves broke just yards from beachfront homes built on stilts.

But few people were around, partly because the Labor Day holiday ended the traditional beach season.

A few tourists stood on a public beach taking photos and a taco shop had a few customers at lunchtime. Most parking areas were empty, however.

Light winds on the island are forecast to strengthen during the evening hours.

Forecasters say Gordon should become a hurricane shortly before striking land along or near the Mississippi coast late Tuesday.

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2:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the federal government is ready to help anyone in Tropical Storm Gordon's path.

The president said in a message on Twitter that anyone affected by the storm needs to follow the advice of state and local leaders and seek updates from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters say Gordon should become a hurricane shortly before striking land along or near the Mississippi coast late Tuesday.

If Gordon becomes a hurricane, it would be the first hurricane to strike the U.S. since Nate came ashore in Biloxi, Mississippi, last October.

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1:35 p.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard has closed three Gulf Coast ports as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches.

The Coast Guard says it closed Mississippi ports in Gulfport and Pascagoula and the port in Mobile, Alabama, because hurricane force winds are possible within 12 hours.

The National Hurricane Center expects Gordon to become a hurricane before making landfall along or near the Mississippi coast Tuesday night.

The Coast Guard also said in a statement it's moving ships and helicopters out of the path of the storm so rescues will be limited or unavailable during the height of the storm.

___

1 p.m.

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Gordon hasn't strengthened as its outer bands bring rain and wind to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the center of the storm is about 145 miles (235 kilometers) southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.

Gordon's top sustained winds remain at 65 mph (100 kph), but the storm is still forecast to go above the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to be a hurricane before hitting land late Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Heavy rain is already falling over western Florida and is expected to spread west along the coast to New Orleans.

A hurricane warning is in effect for all the Alabama and Mississippi coast. Forecasters say the region could see life-threatening, rising waters of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters).

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12:50 p.m.

Louisiana's governor is urging his state's residents to remain vigilant for Tropical Storm Gordon, though the worst of the weather is forecast to hit east of the state.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday that Gordon remains a "very dangerous storm" and shouldn't be taken lightly.

The governor says he's authorized 350 National Guard troops stationed around Louisiana with high-water vehicles, boats and helicopters to respond to any storm threats as needed.

Latest forecasts show Gordon expected to skim part of southeast Louisiana and then move into northeast Louisiana, bringing high wind and heavy rain in areas already saturated from prior rainstorms.

A dozen school districts in southeast Louisiana closed Tuesday, along with several college campuses.

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12:50 p.m.

In a neighborhood not protected by New Orleans' levees, L. J. Cazaux was getting ready for Tropical Storm Gordon.

Cazaux and others were moving boats and cars to a lot of elevated land and stocking up on food and water.

Cazaux planned to ride out the storm in his home in the Venetian Isles neighborhood. He elevated it after the massive floods during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Cazaux says living outside the levee just means it floods before anyone else, but the water also goes down faster.

New Orleans officials say their pumps are ready to get water out of the city.

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11 a.m.

The head of the U.S. National Hurricane Center says he isn't just worried about flooding from the ocean but also flooding from heavy rain from Tropical Storm Gordon.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham says water will be the main story with the storm, currently forecast to make landfall in or near the Mississippi coast late Tuesday.

Graham says a life-threatening storm surge of 3 of 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters) is predicted along the western Alabama, Mississippi and extreme eastern Louisiana coasts.

Graham says heavy rain could also threaten lives. Up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain is expected on the storm's track into southern Arkansas, with some areas seeing up to 12 inches (30 centimeters).

Graham said Tuesday in a Facebook Live video that even if the storm doesn't reach its forecast of hurricane strength its effect would be about the same.

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10:10 a.m.

Forecasters say they still expect Tropical Storm Gordon to become a hurricane before making landfall somewhere along or near the Mississippi coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the center of the storm is about 145 miles (235 kilometers) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Gordon's top sustained winds are 65 mph (100 kph), but the storm is forecast to go above the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to be a hurricane before hitting land late Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Heavy rain is already falling over western Florida and is expected to spread west along the coast to New Orleans.

A storm surge warning is in effect from Shell Beach, Louisiana, to Dauphin Island, Alabama. Forecasters say the region could see life-threatening, rising waters of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters).

A hurricane warning is in effect for all the Alabama and Mississippi coast.

___

9 a.m.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a state of emergency ahead of the expected landfall of Tropical Storm Gordon.

Ivey's office says she signed the declaration Tuesday morning.

Gordon is expected to scrape the Alabama coast as it is makes landfall in Mississippi late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama-Florida border.

Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings wrote on Twitter that coastal residents are urged to get to a safe location by Tuesday afternoon and stay there until Wednesday morning.

___

8:10 a.m.

Mississippi's governor has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches the Gulf Coast.

Gov. Phil Bryant said Monday night that the declaration will make state resources and personnel available to areas affected by the storm.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency warned in a Tuesday update that tornadoes will be possible Tuesday afternoon through the evening. The agency says flash flooding, high winds and storm surge also threatened the southern part of the state.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the mouth of the Pearl River in Mississippi to the Alabama-Florida border. The National Hurricane Center is predicting a "life-threatening" storm surge along parts of the central Gulf Coast.

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7:40 a.m.

A number of schools near Pensacola in northwest Florida have called off classes as Tropical Storm Gordon spins through the Gulf of Mexico.

Officials along Pensacola Beach say the waves are picking up Tuesday morning and lifeguards are warning beachgoers of the danger.

Pensacola Water Safety Capt. Jake Wilson tells WEAR-TV the strong east wind is bringing a lateral current "where it's just going to push you down the beach."

Wilson says beachgoers shouldn't get into the Gulf of Mexico when red flags are flying along the beaches.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the mouth of the Pearl River in Mississippi to the Alabama-Florida border. The National Hurricane Center is predicting a "life-threatening" storm surge along parts of the central Gulf Coast.

___

1:40 a.m.

Tropical Storm Gordon is expected to strengthen into a hurricane late Tuesday when it hits the central U.S. Gulf Coast, including coastal Mississippi. From there, it is forecast to move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday.

Gordon formed into a tropical storm near the Florida Keys early Monday as it lashed the southern part of the state with heavy rains and high winds.

The storm was centered 280 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, forecasters said early Tuesday morning. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 65 mph (100 kph).

A hurricane warning was put into effect for the area stretching from the mouth of the Pearl River in Mississippi to the Alabama-Florida border.

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