Posted on Friday, June 18, 2021 | 3:34 p.m.
Updated 11 minutes ago
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – High winds and heavy rain rocked the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts on Friday as a disorganized and unpredictable tropical weather system swept across the Gulf of Mexico, forcing the cancellation of the June 10 celebrations in Mississippi and Alabama and threatening Father’s Day tourism.
The system, moving north toward Louisiana across the Gulf of Mexico, carried sustained tropical storm force winds of 72 km / h, but forecasters said it could not be classified as a tropical storm because it lacked a single well-defined center.
“This one is just a sloppy mess. There are multiple circulations in this vast traffic area, ”said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Slidell, Louisiana. Forecasters said the storm was likely to dump 4 inches (10 centimeters) to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain along parts of the Gulf Coast – even 12 inches (30 centimeters) in isolated areas.
The storm was expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday, jeopardizing Father’s Day weekend commerce in tourist areas already suffering economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Of course with a weather like this you know you can’t run, but weekends, holidays are when tourists come here,” said Darrin Coulon, captain of the boat. excursion to the Louisiana swamps. He canceled tours on Friday and was hoping for better weather on Saturday and Sunday as he secured his boats at Crown Point.
Concerns were similar for Austin Sumrall, the owner and chef of White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi. He had 170 reservations in his books for Sunday, but was worried some customers might cancel. “We’ve seen, especially last year, that the carpet can be ripped out from under you pretty quickly,” he said.
A tropical storm warning has spread from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa County / Walton County border in the Florida Panhandle. Coastal flooding was possible and flash flood watches extended along the coast of southeastern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle and well inland to Mississippi, Alabama and in parts of central and northern Georgia.
“I hope he comes in and out,” said Greg Paddie, manager of Tacky Jack’s, a restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Mayor Jeff Collier of Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, said officials had previously contacted debris removal contractors and made sandbags available to residents. “We’re pretty well prepared to the extent possible,” Collier said. “This is not our first rodeo.”
The disappointment was evident in the voice of Seneca Hampton, organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He spent weeks organizing food trucks, vendors, a bounce house, face paint and free burgers and hot dogs for the event, which was highly anticipated as last year was canceled. due to the pandemic and because of the new designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
“It’s something that means a lot to people, and there were some people who were disappointed, like ‘I already had in mind that I was coming over there to celebrate,'” said Hampton.
The Gautier event has been postponed until next month. A June 10 event in Selma, Alabama was postponed to August.
Clusters of storms were pouring rain at rates of up to 4 inches per hour on Friday evening along parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, Schott said. Radar showed more heavy rain moving ashore over Alabama and the Florida panhandle. An afternoon notice from the National Hurricane Center indicated that the system was about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Morgan City, Louisiana, and was moving north at 16 mph (26 km / h ).
Health officials have ordered oyster harvesting areas along much of the Louisiana coast to be closed due to possible pollution from storms that could render the oysters unfit for consumption.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday night. The move is an administrative step that authorizes the use of state resources to help with storm response efforts.
Forecasters said the system could produce up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) throughout the weekend along the central US Gulf Coast.
At Orange Beach, Paddie said Tacky Jack’s still had sandbags left over from his preparations for Hurricane Sally last year. This September storm, blamed for two deaths, threw ships on land, cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
There have already been two named storms in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Meteorologists expect the season to be busy, but not as crazy as the record-breaking 2020 season.
Mexico, while receiving rain from the storm in the Gulf, was also threatened by a storm in the Pacific. Tropical Storm Dolores formed Friday morning and is expected to make landfall Saturday night on the west-central coast of Mexico, likely near hurricane force, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Martin reported from Marietta, Georgia. Associated Press writers Leah Willingham in Jackson, Mississippi; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Chevel Johnson in New Orleans and Stacey Plaisance in Crown Point, Louisiana, contributed to this report.