Gordon has eyes on the Gulf coast

Published: Sep. 3, 2018 at 12:30 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2018 at 9:39 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Our focus continues to center on the progression of Tropical Storm Gordon this morning. The system has not changed significantly overnight, and max sustained winds are parked at 65 mph. Gordon remains a very small-cored cyclone with a wind swath tightly hugging the core itself. Small cores like this can be good and bad. They limit the scope and expansion of damaging winds, but are very fickle and susceptible to fluctuations over a short period of time. That can make storms like Gordon very difficult to forecast, particularly from an intensity standpoint. We seen a bit of an uptick in convection near the center of Gordon over the last hour or two, suggesting that a fresh burst of thunderstorms have developed near the core. This has happened a few times over the last 24 hours with slight strengthening noted after the burst. We'll have to wait and see if that is indeed what is playing out this morning.

Gordon has roughly 12 hours left over open waters of the Gulf before reaching the coastline near or just west of the MS/AL border late tonight. This tiny window should help limit intensification, but warm waters and marginal wind shear may allow for some additional strengthening. Because of this, it is possible Gordon is able to achieve Hurricane status prior to landfall. Also entirely possible Gordon makes landfall at a similar strength to what it's at now. The small core will keep the primary swatch of wind damage and power outage potential confined to south Mississippi and southwest Alabama. Areas removed from the small core will experience dramatically reduced sustained wind speeds. Small scale gusts in thunderstorms developing within feeder bands likely provide the highest winds much of our area will see, and shouldn't be high enough to generate damage/outages.

This is an important element to reiterate. We do NOT expect widespread wind damage from Gordon across our viewing area. Individual stronger storms could provide gusty wind issues, but this is akin to what we deal with on a regular basis with Summertime storms. There would just be more of these storms around in this case. If you think it's going to look like a hurricane or tropical storm went through our region, you've got the wrong idea.

Closer to the Mobile area (and the coast of SW Alabama in general), it WILL look like a hurricane or tropical storm went through. Those that get in on the northern edge of the inner core of thunderstorms are liable to experience wind gusts in excess of 60 mph. That's enough to down trees and power lines, perhaps on a widespread level depending on track. The same could be said across coastal Mississippi. The core will be small, but potent. Cases like this can surprise, and residents along the coast may be caught off guard by how briefly intense landfall will be, particularly if Gordon manages to strengthen a bit more. Storm surge and inland flooding will be significant.

Tropical rain bands will be our main impact across central and south Alabama, prevalent into the afternoon heating of the day. Heavy rain, gusty winds and lightning will be likely in these bands. A brief, spinup tornado threat will develop along the coast. This threat could press inland a bit, affecting southwest and west Alabama into the overnight hours. This risk appears limited, but non-zero. Rain totals will be heaviest along the coast and taper quickly with northward the eastward extent. For a complete county-by-county breakdown of expected conditions, see the image below.

Additional feeder bands may linger across west Alabama tomorrow, and that may pose at least some risk for flooding and spinup tornadoes. We'll be watching closely.


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