September 3, 2018 / 8:14 PM / 19 days ago

Florida spared as tropical storm heads toward U.S. Gulf Coast

Sept 3 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Gordon whipped the southern tip of Florida with high winds and rain on Monday and was forecast to grow to nearly hurricane strength as it passes over the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana, officials said.

The storm was forecast to make landfall late on Tuesday near the border between Louisiana and Mississippi while dropping as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of rain in some areas of the U.S. South still reeling from hurricanes a year ago.

Gordon was generating winds of 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour) on Monday as it steamed west-northwest at 16 mph (27 kph), the National Hurricane Center said.

As the storm crossed Florida’s southern tip on Monday morning, officials closed the beaches in Miami-Dade County and warned of possible street flooding.

By Monday afternoon the storm had passed over the state. There were no reports of any injuries or deaths or any damages to buildings, said Alberto Moscoso, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Last year, powerful hurricanes walloped Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, causing thousands of deaths, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage, massive power outages and devastation to hundreds of thousands of structures.

Gordon was expected to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico to nearly hurricane-level winds before making landfall late on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

At the mouth of the Mississippi River, around the area of New Orleans, the storm could generate a surge of up to 4 feet(1.2 metres) and smaller surges could hit coastland along other parts of the Gulf Coast, Graham said.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Sunday he had activated the state’s Crisis Action Team as a precaution.

No oil refinery production has been shut in the Gulf due to the storm, but plants were securing loose items to prevent damage from the winds.

The U.S. Coast Guard also warned that the ports of New Orleans as well as Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi, may have to close within 48 hours when gale force winds from Gordon are expected to arrive. (Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Andrea Ricci)

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