Tropical-storm force winds were already lashing the Alabama and western Florida panhandle coastlines and were predicted to reach hurricane force of at least 74 miles per hour (119 kph) by the time storm makes landfall.
The governors of Louisiana and MS have declared states of emergency, and emergency operations centers have been activated from Florida to Louisiana as officials urge residents to prepare for the storm.
In Pensacola, a 10-month-old baby was killed when a large limb from an oak tree fell on a mobile home.
The center predicted total rain amounts of 4-8 inches in the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and IL. Tornadoes are also possible through Wednesday night over MS and western Alabama, it added.
"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.
Gordon strengthened some in the final hours as it neared the central Gulf Coast, clocking top sustained winds of 110 km/h.
Louisiana and Mississippi's governors declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.
Gordon is expected to pound several states with rain for several more days as it moves north.
More than 35,000 homes and businesses in Alabama and MS were without electricity early yesterday, Poweroutage.us reported.
But the storm's impact could have been worse: Gordon gave only a glancing blow to New Orleans, where Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city now has "the pumps and the power" needed to protect residents inside the levee protection system.
But much of the storms effects will bypass the Tampa Bay area completely, according to Rodney Wynn, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
"When you get the higher waves, water starts splashing across".
Moderate to heavy flooding could be seen on roadways on Dauphin Island, Alabama and in Jackson, Mississippi, along with a few toppled trees, according to video reports by WKRG and WRAL news stations.
New footage from the International Space Station captured Tropical Storm Gordon as it grew stronger over the northern Gulf of Mexico.
As for the possibility of tornadoes, Werner said there is a very low risk.
Before a slight decline in wind speed, it was thought that Gordon would be the first Atlantic basin hurricane to make landfall in 2018.
We're close to the peak of Atlantic hurricane season, and it is certainly showing right now, so be sure to stay updated to with FOX Carolina as tropical activity continues.
"Hopefully we get some beneficial rain from that", Drake said.