Published On: Tue, Sep 15th, 2020

Slow-moving Hurricane Sally expected to deluge Gulf Coast

Slow-moving Hurricane Sally was already dumping heavy rainfall over parts of the Gulf Coast Tuesday morning, hours before the storm was expected to bring an even greater deluge when it makes landfall as a Category 1 hurricane or strong tropical storm near the Mississippi and Alabama border.

The National Hurricane Center warned of “extreme life-threatening” and “historic” flash flooding along the northern Gulf Coast after Sally makes landfall Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. The storm at 8 a.m. ET was whipping maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, and hurricane force winds extended outward up to 45 miles.

The storm was only moving at 2 mph and wasn’t expected to speed up much before making landfall with lingering rainfall. Some areas from the western Florida Panhandle to far southeastern Mississippi could see up to 30 inches, according to the NHC. The center predicts water heights of 6 to 9 feet from Ocean Springs, Mississippi to Dauphin Island, Alabama, if peak surge coincides with high tide.

Waves crash along a pier as Hurricane Sally approaches in Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sept. 15, 2020.Jonathan Bachman / Reuters

“This is the real deal, and it deserves your attention,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter. “Be smart. Prepare for worst. Pray for the best.”

President Donald Trump tweeted late Monday that he was closely monitoring “extremely dangerous Hurricane Sally.” Trump urged residents to “be ready and listen to State and Local Leaders!” Earlier Monday, the president issued an emergency declaration for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, an action that authorizes federal emergency officials to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency assistance to the affected areas.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey thanked the president “for approving our request so quickly.”

“We will continue closely monitoring the developments today, and I urge everyone in the coastal areas south of I-10 and in low-lying areas to take all precautions and heed advice from weather experts and local officials. Please stay vigilant, Alabama,” Ivey said.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the Panhandle’s westernmost counties, Escambia and Santa Rosa, as the hurricane’s outer bands began to lash the area.

Sally has lots of company during what has become one of the busiest hurricane seasons in history — so busy that forecasters have almost run through the alphabet of names with 2 1/2 months still to go.

For only the second time on record, forecasters said, five tropical cyclones swirled simultaneously in the Atlantic basin at one point on Monday. The last time that happened was in 1971.

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