Slow-moving Hurricane Sally threatens to bring ‘historic’ flooding to Gulf Coast
KILN, Miss. — Hurricane Sally was creeping closer to the Gulf Coast on Tuesday night, with the slow-moving storm expected to bring heavy rains and „historic life-threatening flooding” from southeastern Louisiana to Florida’s Panhandle, forecasters say.
Tropical-storm-force winds were spreading onshore along the Gulf Coast by Tuesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that the center of the storm would „make landfall in the hurricane warning area late tonight or Wednesday.”
Sally, which ramped up to a Category 2 storm Monday but has since weakened to Category 1, was 75 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, and 75 miles southwest of Pensacola, Florida, at 7 p.m. CDT. The storm, traveling at just 2 mph, had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.
“It’s going to be a huge rainmaker,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist and meteorologist at Colorado State University. “It’s not going to be pretty.”
While forecasters say it’s still too early to determine exactly where Sally will come ashore, its dangers will be felt for miles with hurricane warnings in effect from east of Bay St. Louis, Louisiana, to Navarre, Florida.
Sally is expected to be a dangerous hurricane when it moves onshore along the north-central Gulf Coast, the Hurricane Center warned.
“There is going to be historic flooding along with the historic rainfall,” Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist with the Hurricane Center, said Tuesday. “If people live near rivers, small streams and creeks, they need to evacuate and go somewhere else.”
Sally, crawling at 2 mph by late afternoon Tuesday, was about 85 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, with winds whipping up to 80 mph.
The Hurricane Center said the storm’s center will continue to move slowly to the northwest and north on Tuesday as it nears the coast of southeastern Louisiana. It will then turn northeast as it comes ashore and continues to trudge across the Southeast later in the week.
Forecasters say Sally could bring 10 to 20 inches of rain from the Florida Panhandle to southeast Mississippi, with some isolated pockets of rain up to 30 inches. The rain along and just inland of the coast could bring „historic life-threatening flash flooding” through Wednesday, the Hurricane Center said.
Up to seven feet of storm surge was also forecast across Alabama’s coastline from the Mississippi border to Florida border, forecasters said.
Isolated tornadoes could also occur Wednesday across portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama, according to the Hurricane Center.
As it moves inland, Sally could also dump up to a foot of rain along pockets of southeastern Mississippi, southern and central Alabama, northern Georgia and the western Carolinas.
President Donald Trump issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday. „Be ready and listen to State and Local Leaders!” Trump tweeted.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, along the western part of the Panhandle, which already was being pummeled with rain from Sally’s outer bands.
Outside Pensacola, Quietwater Beach was completely underwater and county public works employees could be seen wading through knee-high water to secure trash cans and other items. The Pensacola Bay Bridge also closed Tuesday morning amid wind and rain, and over the course of the day, it is likely that more and more routes to coastal communities will be cut off.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey also issued a state of an emergency closing Alabama’s beaches. The causeway to Dauphin Island, which was already flooding, was closed, and downtown Mobile was nearly deserted. Ivey warned residents living along the Gulf, especially south of Interstate 10 or in low-lying areas, to evacuate if conditions permit.
“This is not worth risking your life,” Ivey said during a news conference Tuesday.
Sally had threatened to batter New Orleans, where thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Laura were staying, but turned east over the past day. Laura devastated much of southwestern Louisiana after it roared ashore as a Category 4 storm, the first major hurricane of the 2020 season.
In Mississippi, Hurricane Katrina was on the minds of some residents preparing for Sally’s deluge.
Sabrina Young of Bay St. Louis was at the Kiln shelter Monday. It was the first of several to open around the region as evacuations of low-lying areas began.
“(The people will) be coming but it will be too late,” she said. „They’ll have the bare necessities. I did that with Katrina – the clothes on our backs and that was it. I don’t want to be in that situation again.”
Others appeared unsure what to do and planned to ride out the storm at home. Kenneth Belcher of Ocean Springs said he’s worried about the storm but has little choice other than to stay at his apartment.
„They say it’s going to be a bad one,” Belcher said. „They said 15, 20, 30 inches are going to fall. We got lucky with (Hurricane) Laura, but this one looks like it’s coming to us.”
Some Gulf Coast residents in Mississippi were taking Sally’s approach in stride.
“I’m from here,” said Kristen Gard of Gulfport. “We’ve been through it all. Well, I have – not them,” she said, referring to her two children playing on the beach in Gulfport.
Seven houses from the beach, the Bourgeois home is 30 feet above sea level and 12 feet off the ground. ”We love it here,” Sue Bourgeois said. „We didn’t leave for Katrina. It’s God’s will.”
The storms are part of a particularly active hurricane season in the Atlantic, with Monday marking the second time ever that forecasters tracked five tropical cyclones simultaneously in the Atlantic basin. None other than Sally were forecast to hit the continental U.S. this week.
Scientists say human-caused climate change has made hurricanes stronger and rainier in recent years with warmer air and water in the oceans. Rising sea levels from climate change also can make storm surge higher and more damaging.
Contributing: Annie Blanks and Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal; Chanukah Christie and Sarah Ann Dueñas, Montgomery Advertiser; Lici Beveridge, Luke Ramseth, Alissa Zhu, Mississippi Clarion Ledger; and The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Sally threatens to bring ‘historic’ flooding to Gulf
Displaced residents in southern Oregon and northern California are starting to get good news — but it’s coming at a trickle, and is often enveloped by more bad news.
Early Tuesday morning, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office, noting that the urban fire just outside Medford, Oregon, was now 100% contained, turned over command to local authorities in Jackson County. The Almeda Fire, which torched 3,200 acres, destroyed two small towns in southern Oregon but has now moved into the „stabilization” phase, as search and rescue teams continue to assess damage and potential hazards.
But Tuesday afternoon, there were grim updates. Though Jackson County officials reduced the Level 3 evacuation areas, it also updated the number of residential structures lost in the fire, putting the number above 2,350; previously, it had been estimated at around 600 structures.
On Monday, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office said that fires in the state — which continue to burn close to urban areas outside of Portland — were the worst they’d ever seen.
In northern California, the fire burning in the Klamath National Forest, which displaced the residents of Happy Camp, California, moved to 10% containment, up from 5% Monday. That fire has spread across the border into Oregon, but officials said Monday that if the weather pattern held, they felt confident they’d be able to contain more of the fire this week, though spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman declined to put any sort of timetable on full containment.
The city of Happy Camp, which had been evacuated when the fire burst out of control, has started to repopulate. The fire is estimated to be 136,000 acres.
Air quality, however, is still dangerous in both fire areas. In Medford, it was down to a 226 rating, which is considered „very unhealthy.” But that’s an improvement from earlier this week, when it was regularly registering above 300, which is considered hazardous. Just 100 miles southwest of Medford in Happy Camp, air quality was clocking in at 346.
Freeman, who works with the National Parks Service, said Monday that fires up and down the west coast had stretched already thin resources even thinner.
„The resource drawdown is a really big deal,” she said. „That we’re seeing so much widespread fire, it’s not just state or federal resources are are strapped — it’s across the board.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California, Oregon wildfires closer to 100% containment
Hurricane Sally moved slowly closer to the US Gulf Coast on Tuesday, threatening historic floods as rain and storm-force winds started lashing the shore, and governors of four states urged people to flee the coastline.
Sally could hit the Alabama, Florida and Mississippi coasts on Tuesday night or early Wednesday causing massive flash flooding and storm surges of up to 7 feet (2 meters) in some spots, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
Its languid pace recalls 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which dumped several feet of rain over a period of days on the Houston area, causing major damage.
More than 2 feet of rain was expected in some areas, with „extreme life-threatening flash flooding likely through Wednesday”, an NHC forecaster said.
While Sally’s winds decreased to 80mph at 7pm (midnight GMT), it was moving at a glacial pace of 2mph. Sally was 75 miles (135km) south of Mobile, Alabama, and spreading tropical storm-force winds onshore, the NHC said.
„We’re staying in good spirits. We’re going to ride it out,” said Jennie Bonfiglio, manager of the 1862 Malaga Inn in Mobile’s downtown historic district.
About half the 38 rooms had guests, and the hotel was stocked with flashlights, batteries, bottled water and canned food, she said.
“The wind has definitely picked up and some of the streets are starting to flood. I definitely wouldn’t go outside unless you had to.”
Sally will slow even more after landfall, causing Atlanta to see as much as six inches (15cm) of rain through Friday, said Jim Foerster, chief meteorologist at DTN, an energy, agriculture and weather data provider.
„It’s going to be a catastrophic flooding event” for much of the southeastern United States, Mr Forester said, with Mobile to the western part of the Florida Panhandle taking the brunt of the storm.
Damage from Sally is expected to reach $2 billion to $3 billion (£1.5bn-£2.3bn), said Chuck Watson of Enki Research, which models and tracks tropical storms. That could rise if the storm’s heaviest rainfall happens over land instead of the Gulf.
By mid-afternoon, Panama City, Florida, had received five to six inches of rain, while offshore totals were around 11 inches, Mr Watson said.
Governors from Louisiana to Florida warned people to leave low-lying communities and Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran told residents of flood-prone areas that if they choose to ride out the storm, it will be „a couple of days or longer before you can get out”.
The causeway to Dauphin Island, Alabama, at the entrance to Mobile Bay was already flooded and impassable by Tuesday morning, the mayor said.
Coastal roads in Pascagoula, Mississippi, were flooding and some electrical wires were down, according to photos and social media posts from the police department, which asked people to respect road barricades and „refrain from joy riding”.
Nearly 11,000 homes are at risk of a storm surge in the larger coastal cities in Alabama and Mississippi, according to estimates from property data and analytics firm CoreLogic.
Steady winds and bands of rain had started to arrive in Gulf Shores, Alabama, by Tuesday morning. Samantha Frederickson, who moved recently to Gulf Shores, hit the beach to catch a view of the storm surf. „When it gets to the point we don’t feel comfortable, we’ll take off,” she said.
President Donald Trump made emergency declarations for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, which help coordinate disaster relief.
Ports, schools and businesses closed along the coast. The US Coast Guard restricted travel on the lower Mississippi River from New Orleans to the Gulf, and closed the ports of Pascagoula and Gulfport, Mississippi, and Mobile.
Energy companies buttoned up or halted oil refineries and pulled workers from offshore oil and gas production platforms. More than a quarter of US offshore oil production was shut.
Sally is the 18th named storm in the Atlantic this year and will be the eighth tropical storm or hurricane to hit the United States – something „very rare if not a record”, said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, noting that accurate data on historic tropical storms can be elusive.
The NHC is tracking four named storms in the Atlantic basin.
Hurricane Sally brought heavy rain and choppy seas to the Alabama shore on September 15, as the National Weather Service warned of “historic, life-threatening flash flooding along portions of the northern Gulf coast.”
Footage of the flood uploaded to Instagram shows a lawn submerged underwater in Foley, Alabama.
According to reports, the Category 1 storm was approaching the Alabama coast “at a crawl.” As of 8 pm CDT Tuesday, the National Weather Service wrote the hurricane could possibly strengthen, with the storm “a little stronger based on latest hurricane recon data.”
The National Weather Service additionally reported Hurricane Sally would move slowly toward the Gulf Coast, resulting in “prolonged impacts from damaging winds, storm surge, flooding rains, and isolated tornados.” Credit: @mendylaynemurphy via Storyful