Pensacola child killed when Gordon comes ashore in Gulf; Atlantic storms are forming

The tropical storm never reached hurricane strength as it made landfall west of Florida.

Water covers U.S. Highway 98 in Spanish Fort, Ala., west of Pensacola, on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Tropical Storm Gordon made landfall west of the Alabama-Mississippi border the night before. [Associated Press photo]
Water covers U.S. Highway 98 in Spanish Fort, Ala., west of Pensacola, on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Tropical Storm Gordon made landfall west of the Alabama-Mississippi border the night before. [Associated Press photo]

Editor's note: This story was updated as of 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 5, 2018.

A child was killed in Pensacola as Tropical Storm Gordon made landfall late Tuesday just west of the Alabama-Mississippi border.

News reports said blowing winds made a tree fall on a mobile home in Pensacola. The Escambia County Sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page that responding deputies discovered that the child had been killed. The name and age were not released.

The sheriff's office also issued a flood warning on its Facebook page Wednesday morning. There were no immediate injury or damage reports from other states following Gordon's landfall.

The National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday that Gordon was weakening on a path into Arkansas after striking the coast at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength, near Pascagoula, Miss. The remnants will likely cause flash flooding across parts of seven states and as far north as Iowa in the coming days.

Gordon’s top sustained winds were down to 40 mph (64 kph) as its tight core moved about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Hattiesburg, Miss. But it was going out swinging: Forecasters said radar spotted possible tornados spun off by the storm overnight in the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama, and more were possible through Wednesday night in Mississippi and western Alabama.

More than 27,000 customers were without power as Gordon began pushing ashore, mostly in coastal Alabama and the western tip of the Florida Panhandle around Pensacola, with a few hundred in southeastern Mississippi. Crews were already restoring electricity early Wednesday in the wake of the storm.

The center predicted total rain amounts of 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) in the Florida panhandle and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. Rainfall could be even more intense in isolated places, dropping up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) through early Saturday.

A storm surge covered barrier islands as the storm blew through, and some inland roadways were flooded as well. The National Weather Service in Mobile cautioned that the Styx River near Elsanor, Alabama, could reach moderate, and possibly major, flood stage later Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, a hurricane and a pair of tropical waves bear watching in the Atlantic.

Like clockwork, September is beginning to bring the type of busy hurricane activity that should have Florida and its visitors on alert.

Hurricane Florence is forecast to continue its northwesterly trek across the Atlantic with sustained winds speeds near 120 mph, making it a Category 3 storm. While previous tracks had the storm heading into the open waters of the Atlantic, toward Bermuda.

However, while forecasters say it’s still too early to meaningfully project its filan trajectory, the East Coast should keep a wary eye out.

"Simply put, it’s a little too far out to make any official predictions," said Tony Hurt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "It looks like in the next five days it will be slightly southeast of Bermuda. Some models predict it returning to the east. However, there are some that showing it turning further west. Even so, that would place it at more than 10 days away. So currently, we don’t feel it poses any immediate threat to the United States."

The National Hurricane Center also is monitoring two waves that could develop into tropical systems.

One, located a couple of hundred miles south-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands, has a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical system by the weekend or early next week as it moves west-northwest across the Atlantic. If it develops, it could become Tropical Storm Helene.

The other is forecast to move off the African coast in the next few days, and has a 20 percent could become a tropical system.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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This article was written by one or more Florida Beach Insider staff members.