Storm-weary Gulf Coast residents were preparing for a new weather attack on Monday when tropical storm Sally swirled north. Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sally is expected to become a hurricane on Monday and hit the coast early Tuesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions to a region stretching from the western Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.
The center said Sally could hit the coast hard with a “life-threatening storm surge”, high winds and flash floods from pouring rain.
“I know this storm seemed to come out of nowhere for a lot of people,” said Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards. “We need everyone to watch out for this storm. Let̵
Edwards urged people to immediately prepare for the storm. He also said there are still many from southwest Louisiana who have been evacuated to New Orleans by Hurricane Laura – the very area that could be hit by Sally, a slow storm.
“Predicting is particularly difficult as the intensification will be very close to land and small changes in the route will affect how long it will take for the water to intensify,” said David Parkinson, weather producer at CBS News. “On the coast, the lashing rain will increase with occasional flash floods and stronger gusts of wind.”
Mississippi officials warned that the storm was likely to coincide with the high tide, which would result in a significant storm surge.
“All of our friends in the coastal and southern Mississippi regions need to understand that the time to get off is tomorrow morning if you live in lower-lying areas,” said Governor Tate Reeves late Sunday.
Jeffrey Gagnard, of Chalmette, Louisiana, spent Sunday in Mississippi helping his parents prepare their home for Sally – and to make sure they were safely evacuated before the storm.
“I mean, after Katrina, anything here and anything on the water, you’re going to take it seriously,” he said as he loaded crates of bottled water into the back of his SUV in a grocery store lot in Waveland, Mississippi. “You can’t take anything lightly.”
Gagnard said he intended to return across the state line to prepare his own home for wind and rain. Sally should take it to the New Orleans area.
The system was moving at 8 miles per hour from west to northwest on Monday morning. It was centered 115 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi and 165 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.
On Sunday, Florida’s Gulf Coast was hit by windy, wet weather.
Pensacola on Florida’s panhandle was preparing for 10 to 15 inches of rain.
Sally could produce rain totals of up to 24 inches by the middle of the week, forecasters said.
“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 rain in the coming days.”
In Grand Isle, Louisiana, a mandatory evacuation was carried out before the storm. 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.
“This storm system is likely to affect the Alabama Gulf Coast. While it is not currently predicted to be a direct hit on our coastal areas, we know very well that we should not take the threat lightly,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. She urged residents to prepare for the storm’s path and stay informed in the coming days.
Sally is hardly the only storm in the Atlantic Basin. Paulette gained hurricane status late Saturday and was expected to bring storm surges, coastal floods and high winds to Bermuda according to a recommendation from the US National Hurricane Center. It was predicted that the one-time tropical storm Rene will be a residual low on Monday. Tropical Depression Twenty stepped up to Tropical Storm Teddy Monday morning and is set to turn into a hurricane later in the week, forecasters said.