(RNN) - After becoming a tropical storm on Labor Day, Gordon is heading swiftly toward an expected landfall along the Gulf Coast Tuesday night.
The National Hurricane Center said the outer bands of the storm are hitting the western Florida panhandle, whipping it with gusty winds and heavy rain.
As of the 8 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the tropical storm was located about 75 miles south of Biloxi, MS, moving to the northwest at 14 mph. With maximum-sustained winds of 70 mph, Gordon is a strong tropical storm and could be a Category 1 hurricane at landfall.
Tropical-storm-force winds are spreading along the coastlines of Alabama and the western Florida panhandle, the NHC said.
Gordon will continue bringing strong winds - with hurricane-force winds in hurricane warning areas - as well as sporadic tornadoes to the Gulf Coast.
In the areas under watches and warnings, storm conditions began Tuesday, including heavy rain of up to 8 inches, with isolated amounts of 12 inches, which will cause flash flooding in some areas.
A hurricane warning has been issued from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama-Florida border.
A tropical storm warning is in effect from west of the mouth of the Pearl River to the mouth of the Mississippi River, including Lake Pontchartrain, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton county line.
In addition to strong winds and heavy rainfall, people along a large swath of the coast are bracing for the effects of a potentially life-threatening storm surge.
A storm surge warning was issued from Shell Beach, LA, to Dauphin Island, AL, where forecasters say a surge of 3 to 5 feet is expected.
A storm surge watch is in effect from west of Shell Beach to the mouth of the Mississippi River and from Dauphin Island, AL, east to Navarre, FL. Here, Gordon will cause a storm surge of 2 to 4 feet.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic basin, Hurricane Florence became the third hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Since it is more than 1,000 miles away from the Lesser Antilles, it is too soon to know whether it will impact the U.S. coast, but its expected trajectory will take it somewhere off the coast of the Atlantic well east of the U.S. by Friday.