DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. -- Tropical Storm Gordon never became a hurricane but it was deadly all the same, killing a baby by blowing a tree onto a mobile home as it made landfall. The storm later weakened into a depression on Wednesday but remained dangerous, dumping rain, spawning tornadoes and kicking up heavy surf in its wake.
Gordon struck the coast at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength, near Pascagoula, Mississippi, late Tuesday. Forecasters said radar spotted possible tornadoes spun off by the storm overnight in southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Parts of the panhandle had received more than 10 inches in 24 hours as of midday Wednesday. Even as the system was weakening into a remnant low it still posed threats as it moved inland on a forecast track that would take its center northwest into Arkansas, then northeast toward the Great Lakes.
The only death reported as of Wednesday afternoon was the infant killed by a large oak tree limb that fell onto a mobile home in Pensacola, Florida. Neighbor Amanda Ray told the Pensacola News Journal that she heard a crack and a scream as the limb fell around 9 p.m. Tuesday.
"It was just awful," she said, adding that the sounds were almost indistinguishable from the storm's howling winds. 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. Neighbors said the victim was about 10 months old.
Neighbor Michael Barradas told the News Journal he ran out of his nearby mobile home to ask if everything was all right. The child's mother replied: "No, my baby's in there."
CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reports from Pensacola that the limb sliced through the home. Crews worked through the night and after a few hours were able to recover the body.
Escambia County received 10 calls overnight for downed trees in roadways, along with multiple reports of arcing power lines as the storm blew through with peak gusts of 61 mph. Beachgoers in the area were being warned Wednesday that it's too early to return to the water; dangerous rip currents prompted red-flag warnings.
Driftwood and other debris made for hazardous driving early Wednesday on the causeway to Dauphin Island, Alabama, which was partly flooded by seawater overnight, leaving people to drive over sand and around lawn furniture on the main road. Siding was peeled off some houses, but Mayor Jeff Collier said "for the most part, we did OK."
Dominic Carlucci drove back to his home on the barrier island in his Hummer, and found no damage, just a sagging wooden fence. It wasn't nearly as bad as when Nate, the last hurricane to strike the U.S., came ashore last October in nearby Biloxi, Mississippi.
"We're good," Carlucci said. The center predicted total rain amounts of 4-8 inches in the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.
Rainfall could be even more intense in isolated places, dropping up to 12 inches through early Saturday. A storm surge covered barrier islands as the storm blew through, and some inland roadways were flooded by the rain.
The National Weather Service in Mobile cautioned that the Styx River near Elsanor, Alabama, could reach moderate, and possibly major, flood stage later Wednesday. More than 27,000 customers were without power as Gordon began pushing ashore, mostly in coastal Alabama and the western tip of the Florida Panhandle around Pensacola, with a few hundred in southeastern Mississippi.
Crews were already restoring electricity early Wednesday. Rain was still falling but the lights were on at a Waffle House restaurant in Mobile, where factory worker Jerome Richardson said he lost power at 9 p.m. as the storm passed overhead.
Richardson was still without electricity as he left before dawn for his 12-hour shift. "I just hope I don't have to throw out everything in my refrigerator when I get home," he said.
Governors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all declared states of emergency to better mobilize state resources and National Guard troops for the storm. Mississippi shut down a dozen Gulf Coast casinos.
Workers on at least 54 oil and gas production platforms were evacuated. Communities along the coast provided sand and bags, and many hustled to protect their properties ahead of the storm.
New Orleans braced for flooding, but in the end got only a glancing blow.
Gordon was not the only storm being watched by forecasters. Hurricane Florence has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, on a path toward Bermuda, and lining up behind it, another potential storm was likely to form not far off the coast of Africa.
It's way too early to know if either of those storms will have any impact on land, but Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said attention should be paid: "It's the peak of hurricane season," he said.
"Now is the time to get your plans all set."
Follow Gordon updates below as they happened overnight
Gordon weakens to a tropical depression
Gordon has weakened to a tropical depression over central Mississippi after hitting the Gulf Coast as a tropical storm. Forecasters say the threat of heavy rains and flooding continues along with the possibility of a tornado.
Utility firms say thousands of customers remain without power as bands of rain from Gordon continued to soak some areas. Alabama Power said that by 7 a.m. CDT, about 21,000 customers were without power, mostly in the Mobile metro area. The majority of the outages across the region were in Alabama.
At the height of the storm, more than 27,000 customers across the region were without electricity, mostly in coastal Alabama, southeast Mississippi and the western tip of the Florida Panhandle around Pensacola.
Gordon losing its punch but still dangerous
As of 4 a.m. CDT Wednesday, Gordon was some 20 miles northwest of Hattiesburg, Miss., moving northwest at 14 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were down to 40 mph.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center discontinued all Gordon-related tropical storm and storm surge warnings and tropical storm watches.
Gordon was expected to diminish to a tropical depression later Wednesday morning.
Still, forecasters say Gordon's remnants could cause flash flooding across parts of seven states - as far north as southern Iowa - in coming days.
The Hurricane Center said, "Gordon is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 4 to 8 inches over the western Florida Panhandle, southwest Alabama, southern and central Mississippi, northeastern Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, southern Iowa and Illinois, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches through early Saturday. This rainfall will cause flash flooding across portions of these areas."
Possible twisters as Gordon moves inland
Tropical Storm Gordon spawned multiple possible tornadoes as it came ashore late Tuesday. The National Weather Service issued several tornado warnings in south Alabama and the Florida panhandle after radar indicated possible twisters associated with the storm.
There were no immediate reports of damage.
While not hurricane strength, the tropical system downed trees, flooded roadways and brought heavy rainfall as it moved inland Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service in Mobile cautioned that the Styx River near Elsanor, Alabama could reach moderate, and possibly major, flood stage later Wednesday.
Possible storm-related fatality
Escambia County, Florida, emergency officials confirmed a child was killed Tuesday night when a large oak tree fell on the back of a mobile home in West Pensacola. The child's name and age weren't released.
No one else inside was reported injured.
Power outages sweep the region
More than 27,000 customers are without power Tuesday night as Tropical Storm Gordon began pushing ashore. Those outages are mostly in coastal Alabama and include the western tip of the Florida Panhandle around Pensacola, with a few hundred in southeastern Mississippi.
The number of outages has been rising rapidly after dark Tuesday night as Tropical Storm Gordon's wind and rain began to take a toll on the Gulf Coast's power grid.
Hurricane Florence churns in the open Atlantic
Florence is a Category 2 hurricane over the open Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center's latest advisory.
The NHC says the storm is moving west-northwest at a rate of about 12 mph and is expected to continue this way through Wednesday night. A northwestward motion is expected to begin by Thursday with Florence's forward speed decreasing by the weekend.
Forecast path for Gordon
The National Hurricane Center's latest forecast track was released Tuesday night.
Gordon strengthened some in the final hours as it neared the central Gulf Coast, clocking top sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph). The National Hurricane Center said Gordon's tight core was about 30 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi, or about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Mobile, Alabama, where heavy rains and winds picked up shortly before nightfall.