NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Threats of heavy wind and rain
from a tropical weather
system spinning Friday in the Gulf of Mexico
forced the closure of Louisiana
's coastal oyster beds, forced the postponement of weekend Juneteenth
celebrations in Mississippi
, and may dampen Father's Day tourism along the northern Gulf Coast
A tropical storm
warning was issued 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 were issued along the coast from southeast Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
“I just hope it gets in and gets out,” said Greg Paddie, manager of Tacky Jack’s in Orange Beach, Alabama.
The impending weather threatened Father's Day tourism in an area already suffering economic losses as a result of 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, rather than this weekend.
Seneca Hampton, organizer of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gautier, Mississippi, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, expressed disappointment in his voice. He had spent weeks organizing food
trucks, vendors, a bounce house
, face painting, and free hamburgers and hotdogs for the event, which had been highly anticipated after last year's event was canceled due to COVID-19
, and in light of the recent designation.
“It’s something that means a lot to people
, and there were people who were disappointed, like, ‘I already planned on coming out
there to celebrate,’” Hampton explained.
The Gautier event has been rescheduled for next month, and a Juneteenth celebration in Selma
, Alabama has been rescheduled for August.
By midday Friday, brisk winds and rain bands were hitting the coast from south of New Orleans to Pensacola, Florida. The National Hurricane Center said the system was centered about 220 miles (355 kilometers) south of Morgan City, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and moving
north-northeast at 14 mph (22 kph).
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, and health
officials ordered oyster harvesting areas closed along much of the state's coast. Storms can push pollutants into oyster beds, and officials frequently suspend harvests during tropical weather unti
Late Thursday, Louisiana Governor
John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, authorizing the use of state resources to aid in storm response efforts.
The system is expected to drop up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain across Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) along the central United States
' Gulf Coast through the weekend.
According to the hurricane center, the combination of storm surge and tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline, with water levels reaching 1-3 feet (30-91 centimeters).
Paddie said Tacky Jack's in Orange Beach still has sandbags left over from last year's Hurricane Sally, which threw ships onto dry land and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands in Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
During the 2021 Atlantic
hurricane season, there have already been two named storms, and meteorologists expect the season to be active, but not as intense as the record-breaking 2020 season.
Tropical Storm Dolores formed Friday morning and was expected to make landfall on Mexico's west-central coast Saturday evening, possibly near hurricane strength, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Martin contributed reporting from Marietta, Georgia
, with help from Associated Press
reporters Leah Willingham in Jackson
, Mississippi, and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama.