MIAMI (NewsNation Now) — Threats of heavy wind and rain from a tropical weather system spinning Friday in the Gulf of Mexico prompted the closure of Louisiana coastal oyster beds, forced postponement of weekend Juneteenth celebrations in Mississippi and Alabama and could tamp down Father’s Day tourism on the northern Gulf Coast.
Weather forecasters said the system moving north in the Gulf of Mexico could become a tropical depression or a tropical storm. A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — extending from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa-Walton County line in the Florida Panhandle. Flash flood watches extended along the coast from southeast Louisiana into the Florida panhandle and well inland into Mississippi, Alabama and western Georgia.
The looming weather threatened Father’s Day tourism in an area already suffering economic losses during the coronavirus pandemic. In Mobile, Alabama, Ryan Schumann, president of the Alabama Deep Fishing Rodeo on nearby Dauphin Island, could at least take solace in the fact that the event is scheduled for next month, not this weekend.
By midday Friday, brisk winds and bands of rain were hitting the coast from south of New Orleans to Pensacola, Florida. A midmorning advisory from the National Hurricane Center said the system was centered about 220 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph). It was moving north-northeast at 14 mph.
In Louisiana’s vulnerable Plaquemines Parish, the local government warned mariners that locks and a floodgate in the Empire community, near where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf, would close at noon. Health officials ordered oyster harvesting areas closed along much of Louisiana’s coast. Storms can push pollutants into oyster beds and officials often suspend harvests amid tropical weather until water quality can be tested after the storm.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards late Thursday issued a state of emergency due to the potential weather threats. The move is an administrative step that authorizes the use of state resources to aid in storm response efforts, the governor’s office said.
Spin-up tornadoes are expected Friday and Saturday as rain bands move ashore in Louisiana according to NewsNation affiliate WGMB.
The system is expected to produce up to 8 inches of rain across the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, and up to 12 inches through the weekend along the central U.S. Gulf Coast.
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.
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. The 2020 hurricane season was the most active on record producing 31 cyclones, of which 30 were named tropical storms.
Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted last month between three and five major hurricanes, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour, will form in 2021.
Between six and 10 hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph were expected out of 13-20 tropical storms in 2021, NOAA forecasters said. Tropical storms have winds of at least 39 mph.
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