Gulf Coast residents paused to finalize preparations at the last minute on Monday when Hurricane Sally gained strength as it slowly chugged through warm Gulf waters. The storm turned into a Category 2 hurricane on Monday afternoon.
“The bottom line is that Sally is expected to be a dangerous hurricane near the coast of southeast Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the next 2-3 days,” the National Hurricane Center said early Monday.
Forecasters said the greatest threat was flooding. Rain falls as much as two feet in some areas.
Sally is perhaps the least welcome guest among many companies: For the second time in history there are five tropical cyclones in the Atlantic, said meteorologist Philip Klotzbach: Paulette, Rene, Teddy and now Vicky are also spinning over the ocean water.
CBS News weather producer David Parkinson said Sally’s slow pace could mean more rain will fall than originally forecast.
“The real problem with this storm is that its forward speed is 3 to 4 miles per hour … it will rumble on land, letting 3-4” rain off its ligaments “in the process,” Parkinson said, also not quickly That means it could rain heavily for 24 hours from Tuesday morning to Wednesday. ”
In Old Town Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Jeremy Burke, who owns the Bay Books bookstore, picked up things from the ground in the event of a flood. Outside, he said the quaint town popular as a weekend getaway from New Orleans, about 60 miles west, was almost empty.
“It’s going to be a ghost town,” he said. “Everyone’s greatest fear is the storm surge, and the worst-case scenario is that it will simply fail. That would be a delicate situation for everyone.”
The National Hurricane Center said it was too early to say exactly where Sally would come ashore, as it is not yet known when it would turn north. At 4 p.m. local time, it was about 105 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi. Its maximum sustained winds were 100 miles per hour and it was moving towards the coast at only 6 miles per hour.
The people of New Orleans carefully watched the trail of the storm. Landing more easterly would likely bring the heavier rains and noxious winds to the Mississippi coast or east of it. Outer bands from the storm hit the Florida Panhandle.
A more westerly stretch would be another test of the low-lying city, where heavy rainfall has to be pumped out through a centuries-old sewer system. Sewerage and Water Board officials said Sunday that all pumps were running before the storm, but the aging system is also prone to failure.
Sally is expected to reach the coast by Tuesday or Wednesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions, including the risk of flooding, to a region stretching from the western Florida Panhandle to southeastern Louisiana.
The Hurricane Center warned of an “extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm surge” in areas outside the levee protection system that protects greater New Orleans and extends from Port Fourchon, Louisiana to the border between Oskaloosa and Walton, Florida.
“I know this storm seemed to come out of nowhere for a lot of people,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Sunday. “We need everyone to watch out for this storm. Let’s take it seriously.”
It had been a little over two weeks since the other end of the state prepared for Hurricane Laura, which landed as a Category 4 hurricane on August 27 in Cameron Parish, bordering Texas. This storm pierced the southwestern coast of Louisiana and the city of Lake Charles, ripping up houses from roofs, and leaving much of the city uninhabitable. So far, 32 people have died in Texas and Louisiana, the vast majority of them in Louisiana.
Mississippi officials warned that the storm was likely to coincide with the high tide, which would result in a significant storm surge.
Pensacola on Florida’s panhandle was preparing for 10 to 15 inches of rain.
“This system is expected to bring not only harmful winds but also dangerous storm surges,” said Daniel Brown of the Hurricane Center. “Because it is slowing down, there could be an enormous amount of rainfall in the coming days.”
The entire island of Bermuda, where homes were built to withstand major hurricanes, was in the eye of Hurricane Paulette on Monday morning. Once a tropical storm, Rene was set to become a holdover on Monday. Teddy turned into a tropical storm on Monday morning and was set to turn into a hurricane later in the week, forecasters said. And the tropical storm Vicky formed east of the Cape Verde Islands.
In Grand Isle, Louisiana, a mandatory evacuation was carried out before Sally. On Saturday, New Orleans Mayoress LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents of the Orleans community who live outside the community’s levee protection system.
All northern Gulf Coast states urge residents to prepare.