Hurricane Sally landed near Gulf Shores, Alabama, early Wednesday and threatened record flooding on the Gulf Coast more than 24 hours after the heavy rain began.
The National Hurricane Center warned on Wednesday of “catastrophic” and “life threatening” flooding along parts of the north-central Gulf Coast. The precipitation can last up to two days.
Sally landed as a Category 2 storm with winds of up to 150 km / h and a creeping, slow pace that makes persistent rainfall a major threat.
The painful storm, moving painfully slowly at about 3 km / h, hit parts of Florida and the Alabama coast with heavy downpours and winds Tuesday as many residents reported power outages and tried to protect their homes and businesses .
“Hurricane Sally cannot be taken for granted. We are seeing record floods that may exceed historical levels, and as the water rises, the risk of loss of life and property increases,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned on Twitter on Tuesday.
Ivey urged residents to either prepare for possible evacuations or seek safe shelter as the turbulent storm progressed.
Forecasters warned areas from the western Florida Panhandle to the southeastern Mississippi could see up to 30 inches of rain. The National Hurricane Center projected water heights of six to nine feet from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to Dauphin Island, Alabama if the maximum storm surge coincided with the high tide.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted Tuesday that he declared a state of emergency in 13 counties in northwest Florida when Sally got closer. “Floridians in these counties should prepare for high winds and heavy flooding,” he warned.
On Monday, President Donald Trump made emergency statements for parts of the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and ordered federal assistance due to the emergency conditions of Hurricane Sally.
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The storm, which is set to pick up a bit, is expected to sweep inland across southeast Alabama later tonight and through Thursday.
Sally is also forecast to bring heavy rains to parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas later in the week.
“A hurricane moving at 2 mph is stalled in every way,” Brian McNoldy, hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told The Associated Press. “If they don’t move and just sit there, you’re going to get a ridiculous amount of rain.”
Forecasters warned that tornadoes in the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama are also possible on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Louisiana and Mississippi prepared for Sally, but when the hurricane changed course slightly, forecasters predicted that the storm should largely spared them.
Sally had already inundated some areas in more than a foot of rain Tuesday evening, leaving more than 80,000 customers in Alabama and Florida without power when the storm made its way towards landing.
This year’s hurricane season, which only ends in two and a half months, was already one of the busiest in history. Forecasters have almost gone through the alphabet of names.
By early Wednesday morning, another storm, Teddy, quickly expanded into a hurricane with sustained winds of 90 mph. The storm is still in the middle of the Atlantic, hundreds of miles from land, but is expected to become a catastrophic Category 4 and possibly reach Bermuda this weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Adela Suliman contributed.