World news – Hurricane Sally threatens Gulf Coast with « life threatening » and « historic » flooding


By Sarah Lynch Baldwin, Justin Carissimo, Zoe Christen Jones

Updated on: September 15, 2020 / 8:28 PM

The National Hurricane Center is warning nearly 10 million Americans along the Gulf Coast to expect « life-threatening » and « historic » flooding in the next 12 hours as Hurricane Sally continues churning just south of Alabama. The unpredictable storm could dump several feet of rain from Louisiana to Florida when it roars ashore near Mobile Bay, Alabama, on Tuesday.

The storm’s outer bands are lashing parts of the coast, and the storm could spin-off tornadoes later Tuesday night. Sally is proving to be a challenge to predict, changing her speed and intensity several times over the past 24 hours. Forecasters are warning that more surprises could be in store.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the storm was located about 80 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, and about 90 miles southwest of Pensacola, Florida, the hurricane center said. The storm was moving north at 2 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.

NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite composite loop shows lightning as the slow-moving Hurricane Sally swirls near the Gulf Coast.

TROPICAL UPDATE: @NOAA’s #GOES16🛰️ is closely watching #HurricaneSally as the sun sets this evening. This #GeoColor/#lightning composite loop shows #Sally moving very slowly toward the northern Gulf Coast with winds still swirling at 80 mph. More:

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for portions of central Georgia from Wednesday to early Friday morning before Hurricane Sally makes landfall on the Gulf Coast. While the storm will not touch down in Georgia, state officials are anticipating floods and storm surges from the hurricane-force winds.

The hurricane’s rain bands have increased periods of heavy rainfall around the central Georgia area. While the storm is expected to weaken to a tropical depression, experts are predicting between 3-6 inches of rain in some areas. Georgia residents are advised to keep an eye out for rising or quickly changing water levels, including around rivers, streams, and small creeks.

Sally is expected to make landfall in Mississippi, which will most likely bear the brunt of the damage, however, it will continue to move inland as a tropical depression when it nears Georgia. 

We’ve issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of north & central GA. It’ll be in effect from 2 PM Wed. (9/16) thru 8 AM Fri. (9/18) due to heavy rainfall from Hurricane Sally’s rain bands. Sally will move inland over MS & AL, weakening to a Tropical Depression once it approaches GA.

South Carolina environmental officials are urging owners and operators of reservoirs across the state to be ready to handle potentially heavy rainfall in the coming days as Hurricane Sally makes landfall and drenches inland areas.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control on Tuesday said the agency had performed « pre-hurricane season assessments of all dams of concern. »

In issuing guidance, Jill Stewart, director of DHEC’s Dam Safety and Stormwater Permitting Division, said owners should also notify anyone operating a dam downstream of their property if they are lowering water levels, and also clear trash and debris from spillways.

In 2015, more than 40 dams across the state failed in devastating floods that stranded homeowners and forced some into recreational boats to rescue neighbors. The historic rain and flooding led to 19 deaths and caused about $2 billion in damage.

A year later, Hurricane Matthew caused about 25 more dams to fail and another round of flooding.

After Matthew, South Carolina’s environmental agency requested more than $5 million to stabilize or tear down damaged dams and inspect others. State lawmakers also gave the agency $3 million to boost dam safety.

The increase in storms during the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season might exhaust this year’s list of storm names. Five tropical storms in the Atlantic basin have been named, which ties a record for the most tropical cyclones in a basin at one time since September 1971, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricanes Paulette and Sally and Tropical Storms Rene, Teddy and Vicky have all been confirmed as tropical storms, leaving Wilfred as the only available storm name left, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the authority in charge of naming storms.

As of September 15, at least one more low-pressure area has already begun forming near Cabo Verde, which researchers say has a 50% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone formation within the next 48 hours. 

The WMO rotates alphabetical lists of storm names every six years. The lists alternate male and female names, and only exclude five letters of the English alphabet: Q, U, X, Y and Z.

If more than one storm forms before the end of the season, researchers will use the Greek alphabet to name future cyclones. This has only happened once in WMO history, after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma all touched down in 2005. 

While the agency historically retires storm names that cause catastrophic damage or casualties, its voting body has decided that no names from the Greek alphabet will be retired, regardless of storm outcome. Only Hurricane Sally is currently predicted to make landfall in the U.S.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Tuesday said the state’s disaster relief personnel and equipment will be prepared to aid both Mississippi and Alabama when Hurricane Sally makes landfall early Wednesday. President Trump has approved Louisiana’s emergency disaster declaration, but updated tracking shows Sally’s eastern shift will hit Mississippi much harder than Louisiana. 

At a hurricane news conference, Bel Edwards called the storm’s new trajectory « good news » for Louisiana, but « bad news » for bordering states. While Hurricane Laura has caused over $1.6 million in damages to agriculture and forests, Louisiana’s estimated rainfall has decreased « dramatically » since the storm’s movement and is expected to slow as Sally makes landfall in Mississippi. 

While rain has decreased, flooding caused by storm surge in lower parts of the state are still considered a major concern. Over 13,000 Louisiana residents have evacuated their homes and are sheltered around New Orleans, while over 5,000 evacuees closer to the state line have taken refuge in parts of Texas. 

The Humane Society of North Texas is working with the ASPCA and Wings of Rescue to evacuate dogs left in the path of a hurricane. The group received 46 homeless dogs, which will be made available for adoption in the coming days.

« The Humane Society of North Texas will continue to assist neighboring states in need when catastrophes occur putting the lives of numerous pets at risk, » communications director Cassie Davidson said.

Wings of Rescue officials said Louisiana shelter workers – many of whom had their personal lives impacted by Hurricane Laura – banded together to care for and save the pets.

The animals were flown to the Humane Society of North Texas and the Houston SPCA. The groups are working to move nearly 300 animals impacted by Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Sally to shelters across the country.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said storm surge from Sally is expected in some low-lying areas of the state. 

« We will monitor and prepare to help our neighbors in Mississippi and Alabama while also continuing our efforts to recover from #HurricaneLaura, » he tweeted.

Storm surge from #Sally will still be a factor in some low lying areas of Louisiana. We will monitor and prepare to help our neighbors in Mississippi and Alabama while also continuing our efforts to recover from #HurricaneLaura #lagov

Parts of Mississippi are experiencing storm surge as Hurricane Sally starts to inundate the Gulf Coast. CBS affiliate WJTV is reporting flooding in the cities of Pascagoula and Pass Christian. 

Local police tweeted images showing the impact of the storm and urged residents to stay safe.

‼️ROAD CLOSURES‼️Roads have been blocked due to standing water. We will provide updates as more roads become impassable. The roads are barricaded for your safety. Please do not remove or go around barricades. Stay safe Pascagoula! #PascagoulaPD

Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties in Mississippi are forecast to see up to five feet of ocean surge above a two-foot high tide, WJTV reports. 

Authorities along the U.S. Gulf Coast are shutting down some roadways and residents are clearing out or hunkering down.

The causeway to Dauphin Island in Alabama has been closed, and they’re closing down the Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile until an expected storm surge recedes. 

Rain was starting to intensify Tuesday along the I-10 highway that runs parallel to the coast through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Businesses along the highway exits appeared to be largely closed, and electronic messaging boards on the highway say that a hurricane warning for the area is « in effect. »

In Gulfport, Mississippi, white plastic bags hung over some gas station pumps, showing they’re out of gas. And along a bayou, shrimp boats were being tied up as shrimpers batten down ahead of the waves and storm surge.

A curfew for the Alabama coastal city of Orange Beach, located in Baldwin County, will be in effect from 8 p.m. on Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday.

« A hurricane warning remains in effect for Baldwin County, » the City of Orange Beach said in a Facebook post Tuesday morning. « A significant and potentially historic flood event is possible. Hurricane Sally is expected to produce heavy rains, tropical storm force winds, flash flooding and high surf along the Alabama Gulf Coast. »

Hurricane Sally is drifting north at a speed of about 2 to 3 mph – « the speed of a child in a candy shop, » said John De Block of the National Weather Service.

As a result, the eye of the storm is going to take a while to get to the Gulf Coast, « and we’re looking at about tomorrow morning now, a little bit later than we had been talking about earlier, » De Block said at a press conference with Alabama’s governor Tuesday morning.

Winds are expected to be about 80 mph when Sally makes landfall tomorrow. And record flooding is « very well possible » in the areas of Alabama’s Mobile and Baldwin counties, where low-lying areas will be « particularly susceptible to flooding, » De Block said. 

« Right now the projected path is right up Mobile Bay, » he said. « If this forecast continues to shift to the east, and it very well may, that will decrease the amount of storm surge that is encountered in Mobile Bay, which will be good news for them. However, there are plenty of opportunities for the forecast to change. »

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has urged anyone living in low-lying areas or near the Gulf, Mobile Bay or a river to evacuate if conditions permit.

« I know you all want to protect your family and your property, but this is not worth risking your life, » she said Tuesday morning at a press conference. 

Sally is shaping up to be a « very dangerous and historic flooding event, » said Brian Hastings, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. He similarly urged people in low-lying or flood-prone areas to get to higher ground now, « before we see impacts. »

He advised people to prepare for widespread power outages and make sure they have food, water, batteries and a way to connect with assistance.

The following warnings are in effect as of 10 a.m. local time Tuesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

Sandy Stimpson, the mayor of Mobile, Alabama, is urging people to take precautions as winds and rain hit the area.

We are watching Hurricane Sally. As the wind and rain persist, take precautions and stay safe. We will have a briefing at 10 am.

Residents along Alabama’s Gulf Coast were waking up Tuesday to torrential rainfall, CBS Mobile affiliate WKRG reports.

Police in Baldwin County’s Orange Beach urged people not to be on the roads if they don’t need to be. 

« The road conditions are worsening in Orange Beach and they are expected to get even worse as the rain continues throughout the day, » the police department said Tuesday morning on Facebook.

There is already water over roads in the following locations: Marina Rd. (several locations and completely impassable from Cove Dr. to Boggy Point), Jubilee Point Rd., Safe Harbor Dr., Bayshore Dr. North (several locations), Pensacola Ave., Palmetto Dr. Ext., Alabama St., Regatta Ln., Gulf Bay Rd. (several locations), Southside entrance to Alabama Point East, and Perdido Beach Blvd. at Romar House, according to the department. 

Sandbags will be available for residents of Jackson, Mississippi, Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. local time, according to the city. They can be picked up until 5 p.m. at 4225 Michael Avalon Street.

Shelter resources are expected to be announced once more is known about the storm’s impact and trajectory, according to CBS Jackson affiliate WJTV.

As Hurricane Sally projects to make landfall tonight, the City of Jackson is preparing for possible flooding and shelter for those who may be displaced by the storm. Pick up sandbags tomorrow, September 15th from 9 AM – 5 PM at 4225 Michael Avalon St. Please stay safe!

Forecasters expect 10-20 inches of rain to fall in some areas along the Gulf Coast, with 30 inches in isolated areas, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane #Sally is likely to produce extreme life-threatening flash flooding through Wed along and just inland of the central Gulf Coast from the western Florida Panhandle to far southeastern Mississippi. @NWSWPC expects 10-20″ of rain, isolated 30″- historic flooding possible.

President Donald Trump has issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He said in a tweet overnight that he is closely monitoring « extremely dangerous » Hurricane Sally, and urged people to listen to local officials.

« We are fully engaged with State & Local Leaders to assist the great people of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, » he said. « Be ready and listen to State and Local Leaders! »

My team and I are closely monitoring extremely dangerous Hurricane Sally. We are fully engaged with State & Local Leaders to assist the great people of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Be ready and listen to State and Local Leaders! @GovernorKayIvey @LouisianaGov @TateReeves

A senior specialist with the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday that people should continue to take the storm seriously since « devastating » rainfall is expected in large areas. People could drown in the flooding, said Stacy Stewart. 

« This is going to be historic flooding along with the historic rainfall, » Stewart said. « If people live near rivers, small streams and creeks, they need to evacuate and go somewhere else. » 

Forecasters stressed « significant » uncertainty as to where the storm’s eye would make landfall. But they kept nudging the predicted track eastward, easing fears in New Orleans, which was once in Sally’s crosshairs. 


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