(NBC) — Parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts were under a hurricane warning early Tuesday after fast-developing Tropical Storm Gordon moved across South Florida on its way to the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Gordon became a tropical storm late Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for the mouth of the Pearl River, which divides Louisiana and Mississippi.
Tropical storm and storm surge warnings were in effect along a long stretch of the central Gulf Coast from Morgan City, Louisiana, including Lake Pontchartrain, to the Alabama-Florida border.
At 5 a.m. ET, Gordon’s top sustained winds had accelerated to 65 mph. It was about 230 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving west-northwest at 17 mph.
🌀7am Update – Tropical Storm #Gordon continues to move steadily toward the northern Gulf Coast this morning & is expected to make landfall this evening.
💻LOCAL TROPICAL INFO: https://t.co/E41zdBTW54
👉Next Track Update: 10am pic.twitter.com/eZf6O3arUE— NWS Mobile (@NWSMobile) September 4, 2018
The storm is expected to strengthen further before it hits land.
The weather service projected that it would turn west-northwestward in the next couple of days and that it was likely to approach the central Gulf Coast on Tuesday afternoon or evening.
The National Hurricane Center said tropical storm-force winds would hit parts of southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi coast by late Tuesday, with hurricane conditions also expected in the central Gulf Coast late Tuesday. The Mississippi coast can expect 4 to 7 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, it said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency and authorized the activation of 200 National Guardsmen to be positioned in the southeast of the state.
In addition to other tropical hazards, a few tornadoes will be possible this afternoon along the coast and across the entire area tonight. Be prepared to take action if Tornado Warnings are issued. #mobwx pic.twitter.com/LitZ9U4wmk— NWS Mobile (@NWSMobile) September 4, 2018
The Mississippi cities of Gulfport, Biloxi and Long Beach ordered mandatory evacuations of their harbors and marinas, and the U.S. Coast Guard said the ports of New Orleans and of Gulfport and Pascagoula in Mississippi could have to be closed if winds get too strong.
All tropical storm warnings were canceled for South Florida and the Florida Keys as Gordon moved away, but not until after it had battered the region with heavy rain and winds.
Authorities in South Florida and across the Gulf Coast urged people to stay out of the water — warnings that beach lovers like Cameron Armstrong and Matthew Ewbanks ignored on their visit to Gulf Shores on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
“We got caught up in the undertow, and we almost died,” Armstrong told NBC affiliate WPMI of Mobile on Monday.
Ewbanks said: “It almost pulled us straight underneath. I literally had to grab his hand and help him. We got out of it barely alive.”
Jeff Collier, mayor of Dauphin Island, Alabama, in the Gulf, said the storm was approaching just as the island was finishing up recovery from Hurricane Nate last year.
“We’ve just about got things cleaned up,” Collier told WPMI. “It’s been a good summer, and hopefully this won’t do too much damage.”
Ray Coleman, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said residents should be on highest alert.
“My worry is that people might get hurricane amnesia, where they feel like, ‘Oh, last year wasn’t so bad,'” Coleman told NBC affiliate WLBT of Jackson. “My thing is, no two storms are alike. Just because you made it through Hurricane Nate last year doesn’t mean that this one will be the same.”