Gordon weakens, blamed for baby’s death

Tropical depression spreads rain inland

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala — Blamed for the death of a Florida baby and intense wind and rain that pummeled parts of the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, Tropical Depression Gordon weakened Wednesday but still spread bands of heavy rains across a swath of the South as it swirled over central Mississippi.

It promised more of the same on a forecast track expected to take it northeast into Arkansas, which was forecast to get heavy rain from the system by Wednesday night. By Saturday, what’s left of the storm was forecast to hook to the north, then northeast on a path toward the Great Lakes. National Weather Service offices in Missouri and Oklahoma said Gordon’s remnants could add to the rain caused by a frontal boundary already causing heavy rains in parts of the Midwest. Flash flood watches stretched from the Florida panhandle, through parts of southwest Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.

Gordon never reached hurricane strength by the time it came ashore Tuesday night just west of the Mississippi-Alabama line. Its maximum sustained winds reached 70 mph. It knocked out power to at least 27,000 utility customers in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. By Wednesday afternoon the numbers were down to about 5,800 in Alabama, 3,000 in Mississippi and a little more than 2,000 in Florida.

Pictures on social media showed damaged roofs and debris-strewn beaches and roads. However, no major damage or serious injuries were reported, other than the one fatality — a baby in a mobile home, struck by a large tree limb in Pensacola late Tuesday.

Neighbors told the newspaper that the victim was about 10 months old, but the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the child was 2 years old.

Michael Barradas told The Pensacola News Journal that he heard the loud crack and ran out of his mobile home and yelled, “Is everyone OK?'” He said the mother said, “No, my baby’s in there.”

Barradas said he ran back in his home to get a flashlight, but by the time he got to the neighbor’s home, the baby had stopped crying.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page that responding deputies discovered the child had been killed. Officials haven’t released the child’s identity.

Rain spun around the storm’s center in the Jackson, Mississippi, area Wednesday afternoon. And bands swept up from the Gulf, dropping more rain on northwest Florida — where 10.48 inches had already fallen at Florida’s Pensacola International Airport by Wednesday morning — through the center of Alabama and into Tennessee.

New Orleans, which had braced for severe flooding, was unscathed. And residents along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which expected a serious hit, were largely spared. A dozen casinos that shut down were allowed to reopen at noon Wednesday. Boaters and fishermen returned to marinas after having fled inland a day before.

“We are happy to report that hotels, casinos, attractions and restaurants have resumed business as usual,” Milton Segarra, CEO of the tourism organization Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, said in a Wednesday news release.

“It was fine, just like a thunderstorm,” said Pascagoula resident Trey Casey, who had been given the day off from work in anticipation of more serious damage.

“This is the price you pay to look at this beautiful water and enjoy the coast,” Pascagoula resident Richard Whitlock said as he raked leaves and branches from his yard overlooking the Gulf.