Tropical System to Bring Heavy Rain, Flooding to Gulf Coast

MIAMI—Forecasters predict a tropical system will bring heavy rain, storm surge and coastal flooding to the central Gulf Coast as early as Friday and throughout the weekend.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida—extending from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa-Walton County line in the Florida Panhandle, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

At Tacky Jack’s, a popular restaurant on the Alabama coast in Orange Beach, “the winds are blowing pretty fast today so hopefully that wind will make the storm move faster and blow on out of here,” kitchen manager Greg Paddie said Friday.

“I hope it just gets in and gets out,” he said.

The poorly organized disturbance was located Friday morning about 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of Morgan City, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph). It was moving north at 14 mph (22 kph).

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency late Thursday. The move is an administrative step that authorizes the use of state resources to aid in storm response efforts.

The system is expected to produce up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain across the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, and up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) through the weekend along the central U.S. Gulf Coast.

The Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico as seen by the GOES-16 satellite at 10:46 a.m. ET on June 18, 2021. (NOAA)

The combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline, the hurricane center said. The water could reach heights of about 1-3 feet (30-91 centimeters).

In Orange Beach, people are talking about the storm, but there isn’t the same level as concern about this one as there was about Hurricane Sally last year, Paddie said. He said Tacky Jack’s still has sandbags left over from its preparations for Sally.

Hurricane Sally threw ships onto dry land, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and in the Florida panhandle. Two people in Alabama were killed in the September storm—one who drowned and another during cleanup efforts.

A boat is washed up near a road
A boat is washed up near a road after Hurricane Sally moved through the area, in Orange Beach, Ala., on Sept. 16, 2020. (Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)

The threat of heavy downpours reached far inland. More than 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the coast, organizers of a free Juneteenth festival in Selma, Alabama, cited the weather in postponing a daylong event that was supposed to include music, food and vendors on Saturday. It was moved to August, when it will recognize the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Flood watches also extended into north Georgia, including Atlanta. Up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain will be possible in parts of west Georgia as the storm moves on its expected path to the northeast, the National Weather Service said.

There have already been two named storms during the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Meteorologists expect the season to be busy, but not as crazy as the record-breaking 2020 season.