Hurricane Gordon Heading Toward Florida's Gulf Coast

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Hurricane Gordon has directed its wrath toward Florida Sunday, prompting a hurricane warning along the state's Gulf coast. Forecasters predicted it would hit land later in the day.

Gordon reached hurricane strength Saturday afternoon while cutting a swath through the Gulf of Mexico, according to the US National Weather Service. Gordon previously had been classified as a tropical storm.

Wire services report that authorities have called for a voluntary evacuation along parts of Florida's western coastline and urged residents to make preparations for Gordon's arrival. As of early Sunday morning, a hurricane warning remained in effect for the state's Gulf coast from Anna Maria Island north to the Ochlockonee River.

Rains from Gordon already have caused death and mayhem in Guatemala where 19 people were killed and more than 50 hurt over the past two days. Hundreds of people in the Central American country have fled their homes for fear of landslides or flooding.

The hurricane prompted several oil companies, including Unocal Corporation, Texaco, Chevron and Shell to evacuate hundreds of workers from platforms and rigs in the Gulf, which is a critical producing region for oil and natural gas. The companies said Gordon had made little impact on production.

Gordon's "eye" was located 195 miles south of Apalachicola, FL, and about 155 miles west-southwest of Tampa. The hurricane was moving toward the north-northeast at almost 13 miles per hour. Gordon is expected to strike land in northwest Florida late on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Gordon's maximum sustained winds reportedly are close to 75 miles per hour with higher gusts. Those winds could strengthen as the hurricane approaches landfall.

The other big mid-September storm, Florence, continued to weaken as it raced to the north-northeast. Florence weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm over the Atlantic Saturday night after passing by Bermuda with gale-force winds that did not appear to cause serious damage.

A tropical storm in the Pacific, meanwhile, moved closer Sunday to the Mexican coast, where authorities had declared a state of emergency in the northwestern state of Baja, California.

Tropical storm Miriam was centered about 30 miles east of Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula early Sunday morning. It was moving northwest at almost 12 mph and was expected to make a gradual turn west-northwest in the next 24 hours.

Miriam was packing winds of almost 40 mph with higher gusts. Little change in strength was forecast for the next 24 hours.