JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The tropical storm that formed Saturday off south Florida is strengthening over the warm Gulf waters is expected to approach the Gulf Coast on Monday night with high winds and a life-threatening storm surge.
The earliest 18th-named storm on record is expected to become a hurricane by Monday night and make landfall early Tuesday.
At 8 a.m. Monday, Tropical Storm Sally has 65 mph sustained winds and was centered about 115 miles east southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving west-northwest at 8 mph.
A Hurricane Warning has been issued from Grand Isle, Louisiana, northeast to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued from east of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to Indian Pass, Florida.
TRACKING THE TROPICS: Interactive map
Late Saturday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, and officials in the New Orleans area issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas outside of levee protection, including Venetian Isles, Lake Catherine, and Irish Bayou. The evacuation order was set to go into effect at 6 p.m. Sunday.
The National Hurricane Center said dangerous storm surge was possible along the northern Gulf Coast starting on Monday and added hurricane conditions could set in there early Tuesday.
A tropical storm watch was extended westward from the Okaloosa/Walton County line in Florida to the Alabama-Florida line.
A storm surge watch, meanwhile, was in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Alabama-Florida line, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, Lake Borgne in Louisiana — and Mobile Bay in Alabama.
Elsewhere, a strengthening Paulette became a hurricane late Saturday as it bore down on Bermuda, threatening to bring dangerous storm surge, coastal flooding and high winds to the territory in the coming days.
Paulette had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph as of 8 a.m. Sunday, and was about 280 miles southeast of Bermuda. Forecasters warned Paulette was expected to become a dangerous hurricane when it nears or crosses over Bermuda on Monday. Life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, a well as heavy rainfall totals, are likely, forecasters said. Residents of the island were urged to rush final storm preparations to a conclusion.
Tropical Storm Rene weakened in recent hours and was reclassified as a tropical depression. It had maximum sustained winds of 30 mph and was about 1,200 miles east-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands. Forecasters said Rene wasn’t expected to strengthen and did not pose any threat to land.