Hurricane Sally has now weakened into a tropical rainstorm unloading torrential rains across the Carolinas and into Virginia. Forecasters caution that the storm could trigger some tornadoes in the Carolinas into tonight. And even though Sally is nearly gone, 2020 hurricane season is showing no signs of slowing down as AccuWeather meteorologists have increased the total number of storms expected during this already record-breaking season. This is the end of AccuWeather’s live coverage of Sally and the final update for this live blog. For more recap coverage of Sally, click here and stay tuned to AccuWeather.com and the AccuWeather TV Network.
Streets in this neighborhood in Panama City Beach, Florida, looked more like rivers on Sept. 16, after Hurricane Sally pummeled the Florida Panhandle with heavy rain and storm surge.
The city of Foley, Alabama, located about 12 miles north of Gulf Shores, where Sally made landfall, was one of the hardest hit by Sally as the hurricane pummeled the Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell was in Foley on Wednesday and reported extensive damage in the area, including damage to businesses, trees toppled onto homes and downed power lines. Widespread flooding on the roads was also reported by city officials. On Thursday morning, official reported that most major roadways around Foley were open as contractors were hired to help clear the roads all morning. Much of the city, home to nearly 19,000, remains without power. Watch the video below to witness some of the damage Sally produced.
Sally is already quite similar to Ivan due to the fact that both made landfall on the same date and near the same town of Gulf Shores, Alabama. But could Sally, now a tropical rainstorm, even follow Ivan's rarely produced reformation over the Atlantic?
Ivan ripped through the Gulf Coast in September 2004 and left a widespread trail of damage behind before it drifted up into the mid-Atlantic and out to sea. But rather than moving off into the far open Atlantic, Ivan had other plans. The storm pivoted and tracked down the Southeast coast, where it strengthened back into a tropical storm and made a landfall along Florida's Atlantic coast.
This image shows Ivan's journey during its lifespan in September 2004. The storm made landfall as a major hurricane in Alabama before drifting out to sea days later only to became a tropical storm and track toward Florida. The storm's final destination was in Texas.
Forecasters now say that some computers models are hinting at a similar fate for Sally when it moves over open waters in the coming days. But at this early juncture, it's still too early to determine if Sally will reform.
"While some computer forecast models suggested that Tropical Rainstorm Sally might turn to the southwest after emerging off the North Carolina coast, making a similar turn to what Hurricane Ivan did in 2004, that forecast is not supported by other models or AccuWeather meteorologists at this time," AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell said.
Forecasters have warned that Sally's heavy rain could result in rapidly rising river and stream levels in parts of the Southeast. According to the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, there are currently three rivers above major flood stage across southern Alabama and northern Florida Thursday morning and are highlighted by the purple dots on the graphic below. Those rivers include the Styx River near Eleanor, Alabama, which is currently rising to around 22.8 feet, which is still below the all-time record of 28.6 feet.
The Shoal River near Mossy Head, Florida, established a new record height of 25.65 feet early Thursday, breaking the former record of 24.7 feet set back on June, 6 1989. However, waters are currently receding and have already dropped past major flood stage.
This image shows river levels at their various stages across the Gulf Coast region of Alabama and northwestern Florida. Purple indicates major flood stage while red is for moderate flood stage. (Photo/ NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service)
Tropic Isles condominiums are seen after Hurricane Sally moved through the area, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Orange Beach, Ala. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Storm damage cleanup continues along the Alabama coast Thursday morning, and Tony Kennon, the mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama, said damage assessments in the town have been slow due to the sheer amount of water left behind by Sally. Kennon, in a video shared to the city's Facebook page, said the impacts in the city were "probably worse than Ivan," the last hurricane to make landfall on the Alabama coast back in 2004. Like Sally, Ivan made landfall near Gulf Shores, but Ivan hit the coast as a Category 3 major hurricane, while Sally hit as a strong Category 2 storm, just under major hurricane status. AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramla was in Orange Beach Wednesday and captured footage of widespread damage around the town, including boats lifted onto roadways and a boardwalk that was ripped apart.
At least one person was killed in Orange Beach as a result of the storm and another person was reported missing, according to The Associated Press. Below is a video of Sally's ferocious winds and pounding surf early Wednesday morning as it made landfall in nearby Gulf Shores, roughly 10 miles west of Orange Beach.
The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1, but it actually saw two early season storms, Arthur and Bertha, develop before the official start date. Now, with about two and a half months left until the end of the season on Nov. 30, there is only one name left on the 2020 Atlantic storm name list, Wilfred, and that could be utilized as early as today.
A tropical disturbance in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico could become a tropical depression or storm later Thursday. Currently, the National Hurricane Center gives it a 90 percent chance of formation. The NHC said an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft is scheduled to fly into the disturbance to investigate it Thursday afternoon. Once Wilfred does take shape, forecasters will be forced to utilize the Greek alphabet to name tropical storms or hurricanes, the first time that's happened since the 2005 season, the only other time the Greek alphabet has been used.
In this satellite image, the tropical disturbance which could soon become a depression or tropical storm is located in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, while Sally is seen drifting over the Southeast in the top right of the image. (Image/NOAA GOES East).
Over 24 hours after landfall and even after Sally weakened to a tropical depression, over half a million residents in Alabama and Florida will wake up without power on Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. In Alabama, 277,662 people are in the dark and another 223,192 from Florida are without electricity.
Sally has continued to lose wind intensity and is now designated as a tropical depression. However, very heavy rain and widespread flooding will continue as Sally continues to move inland.
Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are widespread across the Florida Panhandle and much of southern Alabama. The highest rainfall totals are concentrated over the far western Florida Panhandle and the southwestern corner of Alabama extending to the Gulf of Mexico. Rainfall totals of 16 to 24 inches have been observed, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 30 inches in Bellview, Florida.
After Hurricane Sally made landfall, boats in Orange Beach, Alabama, were left scattered all across the town. “100,000 dollar boats are stacked on top of each other in the middle of the road. I was standing on the porch when the pontoon boat starting coming across and if it had not been for the road it would have ended up in our yard,” Mark O’Connor, Orange Beach, Alabama resident told AccuWeather National News Reporter Jonathan Petramala. In Alabama, a vessel left unattended for four or more weeks after a hurricane, tropical storm, or other natural event resulting in a declaration of emergency by the Governor is considered an abandoned vessel.
A boat is washed up near a road after Hurricane Sally moved through the area, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Orange Beach, Alabama. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The first death from Sally has been reported in Orange Beach, Alabama, after Hurricane Sally made landfall in the neighboring Gulf Shores as a dangerous Category 2 hurricane early Wednesday. Officials report one person is dead and another is missing in the north side of the Back Bay area, Orange Beach City Administrator Ken Grimes reported. Grimes said the incident appears to be water-related as a result of Hurricane Sally. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are closed to visitors for at least the next 10 days as the cities begin assessing the damage and cleaning up the damage left behind by the powerful storm.
The worst of the wind is winding down and will continue to do so through Wednesday night, however, AccuWeather Meteorologists say wind gusts of 40-60 mph will remain possible from the western and central Florida Panhandle into south-central and far southeast Alabama into Wednesday evening. Beyond Wednesday evening, a few wind gusts past 40 mph will remain possible near and to the south and east of the center of the storm, but they will be very isolated. Rain will come to an end Wednesday night across most of southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. However, residents shouldn't let their guards down just yet — rivers will continue to rise into Thursday and even Friday at some locations downstream and closer to the Gulf Coast. Many rivers in the region are forecast to crest in major flood stage and some may challenge record levels. Rain will continue across South Carolina, Georgia and central and northeastern Alabama through Wednesday night, while also expanding into North Carolina and southern Virginia.
President Trump issued an emergency disaster declaration for the state of Florida after Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama. The declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. The order, which is retroactively in effect beginning on Sept. 14, will aim at "alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures." In addition, the declaration will aid in measures to save lives, protect property, public health and safety and to "lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe." The declaration frees up money and resources to respond to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sally.
Widespread storm surge caused by Hurricane Sally created panic among residents around Orange Beach, Alabama. “It was coming through the walls, so it was coming through my room. I just started crying, I got really emotional. I was thinking ‘this is it, I don’t know what to do’,” Orange Beach, Alabama resident, Abby Grimes, told AccuWeather National News Reporter Jonathan Petramala. Some residents had to leave their homes in the middle of the night to take shelter in higher ground. “We waded through the water, about waist-high water, and ran to the house behind us because it's on stilts,” Kathy Dutton, Orange Beach, Alabama, resident told Petramala. Petramala reported firefighters couldn’t make it through the storm surge, so residents were left to fend for themselves during one of the scariest nights of their lives.
Kathy Dutton, a resident of Orange Beach, Alabama describes the frightening experience of riding out Hurricane Sally as it blasted the region early on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AccuWeather / Jonathan Petramala)
The last and only time the Greek alphabet was used was during the historic 2005 hurricane season; however, that record could be tied for a second time this season, or possibly broken. "There are three main areas being monitored for new tropical depression formation this week through this weekend," according to AccuWeather's top hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski. One of two systems that could form sooner rather than later is a strong tropical disturbance centered a few hundred miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands, which are located off the northwest coast of Africa. A disturbance near Cabo Verde and a feature in the southwestern Gulf could compete for the names Wilfred and Alpha.
The sheriff’s office in Walton County, Florida, responded to an urgent call on Wednesday of a resident who was stranded in flood waters and was running out of oxygen. When deputies arrived, water was waist-deep on the first floor of the home where the man was trapped. A Good Samaritan helped the two officers transport the man to safety with the help of a kayak and they were able to take him to safety
(Credit: Walton County Sheriff)
The Walton County Sheriff is urging people to stay at home due to the flooding across the region. Officers have responded to several calls of people trapped in their vehicles after trying to drive on a flooded road. Some roads have been completely washed out, making travel impossible even where roads are not underwater.
On a typical day, Pensacola, Florida, resident John Switzer can look out his window to see his dock a stone throw’s distance from his house, but the wrath of Sally made the same view almost unrecognizable on Wednesday morning. Large waves were crashing ashore and instead of seeing his dock, Switzer saw a barge that had gone adrift amid the rough waters. “Quite a few barges have broken loose,” Switzer told Storyful, “and one with concrete columns is parked on my yard 20 feet away from my structure. Took out my dock.”
Farther west in Orange Beach, Alabama, AccuWeather National News Reporter Jonathan Petramala found another large boat that ended up ashore due to Sally. The boat was pushed up against the guard rail of a road when the water was higher, but as the waters receded, it left the boat stranded on land.
For the first time since Monday, Sally is no longer a hurricane as it has weakened back to a tropical storm with 70 mph maximum sustained winds. The National Hurricane Center said Sally was about 30 miles north-northeast of Pensacola, Florida. Meanwhile, the the storm surge warning from Dauphin Island, Alabama, to the Alabama/Florida border has been discontinued, and the hurricane warning from the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Okaloosa/Walton County line has been changed to a tropical storm warning.
Sally moving over the southern U.S. as a tropical storm on Sept. 16, 2020. (Image/NOAA GOES East).
Offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico has been severely hampered by Sally as Reuters reports that more than a fourth of all production in the Gulf was shut down due to the storm. According to Reuters, citing the U.S. Interior Department, the shutdown meant nearly 500,000 barrels per day of offshore crude oil production and 759 million cubic feet per day of natural gas output were not produced. Some chemical and oil ports along the Mississippi River were beginning to reopen Wednesday, but with some restrictions, while some other oil and gas producers told workers to prepare to return to other offshore platforms, Reuters said.
Hurricane Sally is currently moving over the Florida Panhandle and is barely maintaining hurricane strength as its maximum sustained winds are 75 mph. When Sally's winds drop below 74 mph, it will become a tropical storm. Catastrophic flooding is ongoing and will continue even as the storm weakens further. The photos below show where the storm has already triggered disastrous flooding.
The Pensacola Bay Bridge was closed on Tuesday after it was struck by a barge that came loose amid Sally's approach. On Wednesday, photos emerged on social media showing a huge chunk of the bridge missing. Known as the Three Mile Bridge, the four-lane bridge connects Pensacola, Florida to Gulf Breeze, Florida via U.S. Highway 98.
The Santa Rosa County Emergency Management agency also posted the same photo and urged drivers to not attempt to cross the bridge. On Wednesday, the City of Gulf Breeze, Florida, shared a photo of a collapsed crane on the bridge and asked drivers to stay off the streets to allow emergency personnel access.
A section of the Three Mile Bridge shows a missing section on Sept. 16, 2020. (Photo/ Santa Rosa County Emergency Management)
Hurricane Sally continues to make its mark on the Gulf Coast, but the storm has been making its presence felt for several days now, and even since this past weekend when it drenched South Florida as a tropical storm. Here's a glimpse at the storm's top wind gusts so far. For comparison, Hurricane Laura produced a 137 mph wind gust when it battered Cameron, Louisiana, last month.
This graphic shows Hurricane Laura's top wind gusts on Aug. 27, 2020, the day it made landfall in southwestern Louisiana.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post said the 123 mph wind gust from Sally occurred in Mobile, Alabama. It has been corrected to say the gust occurred in Gulf Shores.
Sally's maximum sustained winds are down to 85 mph as the storm tracks near the Alabama-Florida border. Still, the storm is currently producing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding over portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama.
The National Hurricane Center said Sally was about 20 miles west-northwest of Pensacola, Florida, and "a National Ocean Service water level station in Pensacola, Florida, recently reported about 5.5 feet of inundation above ground level," according to its latest advisory. The NHC said a tropical storm warning has been discontinued west of the Mississippi Border.
Power outages are also steadily climbing, with more than 500,000 total outages across Alabama and Florida, according to PowerOutage.us. Over 150,000 outages are in the Mobile, Alabama, area alone due to the damage from the storm, Alabama Power said.
AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala spent the night in Orange Beach, Alabama, tracking Sally's approach to land and the storm's eventual landfall. Through the chaotic windswept darkness, he captured video of the storm ripping apart a pier. Watch the scene unfold in the video below.
Orange Beach officials have extended a curfew for the city until 12 p.m. local time today. Photos posted to the city's Facebook page show boats tossed onto the side of roadways, flooded streets and widespread storm debris.
In the latest edition of the "Weather Insider" podcast, AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno discusses Sally's landfall as a strong Category 2 storm and what forecasters expect next from the storm as it tracks inland. Listen to the podcast below.
Forecasters are warning that Sally will deliver flooding of historic proportions as it slowly moves over the southern United States through the end of the week. The graphic below illustrates where the highest flood risk will be into Thursday night.
The coastal Alabama town of Orange Beach is experiencing life-threatening conditions as a result of Sally, and the local police department is urging people to stay off the roadways due to heavy debris strewn all over the roads. The city has also extended its curfew until 12 p.m. local time. The curfew initially was supposed to end by 6 a.m. after going into effect 8 p.m. Tuesday.
"Orange Beach Police/Fire dispatch have been inundated with calls and ask everyone to please be patient," city officials said in a statement early Wednesday. "They are doing everything they can to assist. They will respond as soon as conditions allow."
Orange Beach is just 7 miles east of Gulf Shores, where Sally made landfall. AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala is in Orange Beach and captured a video of the storm's hellacious winds ripping through the city during the overnight hours. Watch it below.
As Sally moves further inland, triggering catastrophic and life-threatening flash flooding, it is also unleashing punishing winds from southeastern Alabama through the western Florida Panhandle.
A sustained wind of 81 mph and a gust to 99 mph has been reported at Dauphin Island, Alabama, within the past hour or so, the National Hurricane Center said. Elsewhere, a sustained wind of 61 mph and a gust to 86 mph has been observed at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, in Pensacola, Florida. Click here to watch a video of the storm's potent winds whipping coastal Alabama.
When Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama this morning, it became the eighth named storm system to make landfall in the continental U.S. this year, according to Colorado State University hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach. On Twitter, Klotzbach added that six of those eight storms made landfall as hurricanes and each intensified by at least 15 mph in the 24 hours prior to landfall.
Hurricane Sally has made landfall on the Alabama coast in the city of Gulf Shores. Recent data indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 105 mph with higher gusts, making Hurricane Sally a Category 2 storm upon landfall.
In the early hours of the morning, hundreds of thousands of residents in Florida and Alabama are already without power, according to PowerOutage.us. As of 5:45 a.m., EDT, over 212,000 people from Alabama and over 118,000 people from Florida have already lost electricity from the heavy rains, flooding and strong winds. Those numbers are expected to climb through the morning as Sally moves closer to land.
After initially forecast to make landfall near the Florida-Alabama border as a Category 1 hurricane, Sally's Wednesday morning re-intensification now has the storm expected to make landfall as a Category 2 system. Sally's expected time of arrival remains mid-morning on Wednesday, although its impacts have been felt long before any arrival.
In its 4 a.m., CDT, update, the National Hurricane Center warned areas of northwest Florida and southern Alabama of impending "historic and catastrophic flooding" that is unfolding west of Tallahassee, Florida, to Mobile Bay, Alabama.
The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Emergency for Navarre, Wright and Fort Walton Beach in Florida. This type of warning is only issued when a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is happening. Anyone in the flash flood emergency area is advised to seek higher ground immediately.
Reports from Gulf Shores, Alabama indicate that strong winds from Hurricane Sally is ripping items off of buildings. Strong, damaging winds will continue to spread farther inland as the hurricane moves toward the coast and makes landfall later this morning.
Numerous flooded roadways and intersections have been reported by police in Pensacola, Florida due to impacts from Hurricane Sally. In addition, hazardous debris is also in many locations, too numerous to list.
Hurricane Sally has continued to strengthen, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. With the storm gaining more intensity, AccuWeather meteorologists now expect Sally to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane.
As of 1 A.M. EDT, hurricane hunters flying through Hurricane Sally have found that maximum sustained winds have increased to 100 mph. This means that Sally has strengthened from a Category 1 to a Category 2. AccuWeather still expects Sally to make landfall around 8 A.M. EDT Wednesday morning as a Category 1, despite its current Category 2 designation.
Sally has continued to gain wind intensity. Maximum sustained winds have increased to 90 mph. Additional strengthening is possible until the hurricane makes landfall on Wednesday morning.
Sally is forecast to move slowly Tuesday night toward the Alabama coast with landfall projected to be around 7 a.m. CDT Wednesday morning, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. Once the storm has made landfall, it will quickly lose wind intensity during the day on Wednesday as it slowly moves inland. Flooding rain, dangerous storm surge flooding and damaging wind gusts will impact communities stretching from southern Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle through Wednesday night. AccuWeather meteorologists report that winds will increase through Tuesday night from the Florida Panhandle to southern Mississippi. The region can expect wind gusts of at least 40-60 mph with higher gusts of 60-80 mph later Tuesday night into Wednesday morning across far southeastern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and far western portions of the Florida Panhandle.
With the center of Sally so close to the coast, the eye of the hurricane can be seen on Doppler radar. The eye is approximately 30 miles across and the area of the hurricane just outside of the eyewall is where the strongest winds are found. As the eye approaches landfall, winds along the coast will gradually increase, topping out as the eye begins to move over land.
This radar loop shows Hurricane Sally early Tuesday night with the eye of the storm visible about 70 miles south of the Alabama coast. (AccuWeather)
The center of Sally is just 70 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, and as it gradually approaches landfall, it has become slightly stronger. “Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Sally's maximum winds have increased to near 85 mph,” the National Hurricane Center said in a special update at 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday. Prior to the update, maximum winds were 80 mph. Sally is still a Category 1 storm and is forecast to remain at this strength until landfall, which is expected on Wednesday.
Hurricane Sally spinning just off the Gulf Coast on Tuesday evening as a Category 1 storm. (NOAA/GOES-East)
The slow motion of Hurricane Sally has caused the Gulf Coast to be drenched by unrelenting tropical downpours, which has already totaled more than one foot in some spots. The three-day rainfall total in Pensacola, Florida, has already climbed above 8.50 inches, well above the 5.98 inches of rain that the city typically records in all of September. North Shore, Florida, has been the wettest spot so far with rainfall totals approaching 14 inches. More rain is in the forecast through Wednesday as Sally moves at a snail’s pace over the region with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ rainfall of 30 inches.
Residents along the Gulf Coast in the path of Hurricane Sally can use AccuWeather’s new Local Hurricane Tracker to see a detailed hurricane forecast for their neighborhood. This feature shows forecast details such as the highest expected wind gust, rainfall forecast and the hour-by-hour rainfall accumulation. This feature can be found at the top of the local forecast page across the region, including Mobile, Alabama.
Many areas from the Florida Panhandle to the shores of Mississippi have reported tropical storm-force wind gusts from Sally with the worst winds still to come. Gusts between 50 and 60 mph have been common throughout Tuesday afternoon, including a 58 mph gust in Pensacola, Florida, and a 60 mph gust Mobile, Alabama. Despite the strong winds, power outages have been minimal with around 6,000 outages reported in Florida and 11,000 in Alabama, according to PowerOutage.us. However, outages are likely to climb over the next 24 hours with Sally forecast to make landfall early Wednesday morning along the coast of Alabama.
Two casino barges broke loose in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, on Tuesday as Sally continued to linger off the coast. No one was hurt, but Mayor Terry Downey reported one of the vessels swung around and damaged two fishing piers. Downey said tugboats came to the rescue to help secure the boats again. Reports say the situation appears to be under control now.
Sally’s storm surge also proved to be too much for a smaller fishing boat to handle in Pensacola, Florida. AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala recorded video of the sunken boat submerged by Sally's storm surge. Earlier, Petramala was on the scene of a bridge closure in Pensacola Beach, where a barge crashed into it as the wind, rain and storm surge have been ramping up all morning.
Hurricane Sally has the potential to spawn brief tornadoes and waterspouts across the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama. On Tuesday morning, a tornado watch was issued by the National Weather Service for coastal Alabama and the western half of the Florida Panhandle and will remain in effect through the evening. According to AccuWeather meteorologists, tornadoes embedded in the rain bands of Sally can cause damage to the north and east of the storm’s track as well. Tornadoes and waterspouts that do spin up may be difficult to see due to heavy rain from Sally.
A group of dangerous fire ants was spotted floating in an area of Pensacola, Florida, that has been flooded by rain from Hurricane Sally. WKRG News 5 photographer Jason Garcia spotted the fire ants on Tuesday, which when bunched tighter, can float on top of the water. A bite from a fire ant can be very painful, so encountering a group of ants like this can be very dangerous; yet another reason why people should avoid walking through flooded areas. This is not the first time that fire ants have been spotted floating in floodwaters during a hurricane. A colony of tens of thousands of fire ants was spotted in the Carolinas in 2018 in the wake of Hurricane Florence. One year earlier, clusters of fire ants were seen in Texas after Hurricane Harvey caused substantial flooding across the region.
The forward speed of Hurricane Sally has slowed to just 2 mph with the center of the storm spinning around 100 miles south of the Alabama coast. Although the center of the hurricane is still over water, the slow movement of the storm means that areas along the coast from Florida to Louisiana are being bombarded by unrelenting waves and storm surge that is being generated by the storm. On Tuesday morning, the Pensacola Pier in Pensacola Beach, Florida, was being hit by waves nearly as high as the pier itself. Farther west at Gulf Shores, Alabama, debris was spotted in the high surf and was being carried down the beach.
Heavy rain by the outer rain bands of Sally is also drenching the region, bringing the risk of flooding to areas farther inland away from the surf and storm surge. By 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday, a weather station in Panama City, Florida, had measured 3.11 inches of rain, about half of the typical rainfall in the city for the entire month of September. This does not include rain from Sally that fell on Monday. This risk of flooding from Sally’s heavy rain is one of the factors that has lead AccuWeather meteorologists to rate Sally as a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes.
Hurricane Sally is only 60 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 105 miles south of Mobile, Alabama. The storm has weakened a bit as its maximum sustained winds have dropped to 80 mph.
The city of Orange Beach, located on the Alabama Gulf Coast, has instituted a curfew that will begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday night and remain in place until 6 a.m. Wednesday. "Based on conditions, emergency response may be delayed or interrupted as weather deteriorates," city officials said. For emergency calls continue to dial 9-1-1," city officials said. Road conditions are already deteriorating in Orange Beach, according to WKRG.
"There is significant potential that bridges will be closed as the storm nears shore," the statement from city officials continued. "Once tropical storm force winds are sustained at 45 mph, bridges will close until winds subside or at such time that local emergency management officials deem them unsafe. This includes the Beach Express toll bridge and the Perdido Pass bridge. Emergency response will likely be affected by conditions as well."
The city of Gulf Shores, Alabama also instituted a curfew from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday. "Residents in low-lying areas are recommended to evacuate today during daylight hours, or shelter in place taking all necessary precautions," Gulf Shore city officials said. "It is likely emergency vehicles may not be able to navigate flooded roadways, particularly the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Plash Island and low-lying areas surrounding Little Lagoon."
This radar image shows rain from Hurricane Sally spreading across the central Gulf Coast on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (AccuWeather)
For the second time in a month, New Orleans will avoid the worst of a menacing hurricane. The National Hurricane Center said the tropical storm warning for Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans has been discontinued. That news comes several hours after a hurricane warning was discontinued for the city.
The Big Easy can still expect some impacts from Sally, but it will not take a direct hit, as the storm's path is now focused on Mississippi and Alabama. AccuWeather meteorologists say strong winds and rain will move through the city into Tuesday night. Late last month, New Orleans avoided a strike from powerful Hurricane Laura which rattled southwestern Louisiana, including the Lake Charles region.
Waves crash along a pier as Hurricane Sally approaches in Gulf Shores, Alabama, U.S., September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Police in Pensacola, Florida, say the Pensacola Bay Bridge has been closed after a barge crashed into the span on Tuesday morning. AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala is on the scene in Pensacola Beach, where wind, rain and storm surge have been ramping up all morning. Video shot by Petramala showed police cars blocking vehicles from advancing onto the bridge.
According to a local media outlet, strong winds pushed the barge into the bridge, which connects Pensacola Beach to Gulf Breeze. Video posted on Twitter showed the dramatic scene as tropical-storm-force winds lashed the barge and shoved it into the bridge.
Sally is unfolding similarly to other potent hurricanes in the recent past, including Harvey in 2017 and Florence in 2018. Both of those storms produced historic rainfall rates thanks in part to how slow they moved once over land. Harvey dropped an astounding 60.58 inches near Nederland, Texas, in August 2017, while Florence dropped 35.93 inches in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. In fact, Harvey was the most significant tropical rainfall event in United States history both in terms of scope and peak rainfall amounts, according to the NHC. Watch the YouTube video below for a detailed explanation abut the dangers of slow-moving hurricanes.
AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala was in Pensacola Beach, Florida, Tuesday morning about 90 miles away from Sally. He reported that storm surge was already beginning to affect the area, and videos he shared on Twitter showed turbulent surf that was being lashed by gusty winds under a dark sky. A voluntary evacuation order has been issued for low-lying areas in Escambia County, which includes, Pensacola Beach, the Pensacola News Journal reported.
As Sally continues to move at a glacial pace, AccuWeather meteorologists have raised their projected rainfall totals for the storm, which could produce life-threatening and historic flooding.
"A large swath of 4- to 8-inch rainfall is forecast from the central Gulf coast to near the southern Appalachians and onward toward a portion of the Atlantic coast, but an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ rainfall of 30 inches is forecast in parts of southern Alabama and the western part of the Florida Panhandle as Sally crawls along," AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said.
Forecasters are particularly concerned about Mobile, Alabama, which could suffer a double whammy of sorts.
"Torrential, flooding rain and storm surge flooding that backs up Mobile Bay and the Mobile River are a great concern for the city of Mobile and the surrounding metro area and suburbs," Benz said.
It's been a historic year for both wildfires in the West and tropical activity in the Atlantic, and on Monday, NOAA's GOES-East satellite was able to capture a snapshot of both seasons in one stirring image.
Just before the Monday sunset, AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Adam Del Rosso highlighted Sally in the Gulf of Mexico, and Paulette in the Atlantic, as well as the thick smoke from fires, which poured into the northeastern U.S., and created hazy skies Monday evening. The thick smoke was also attributed to lower temperatures in the East, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
Sally continues to inch closer to the Gulf Coast at a meager 2 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. EDT advisory. The storm is maintaining its Category 1 strength and maximum sustained winds remain at 85 mph. Sally is located about 105 miles south-southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi and forecasters continue to warn of "historic" flooding potential from Sally. Track the storm's latest movements and get the updated eye forecast track in the AccuWeather Hurricane Center.
Sally continues to slow down as it nears the Gulf Coast, with present movement at 2 mph toward the west-northwest, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maximum sustained winds are 85 mph, which is Category 1 hurricane strength. Forecasters expect Sally to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday morning near the Mississippi and Alabama border.
A satellite view of Hurricane Sally crawling toward the Gulf Coast early Tuesday morning, Sept. 15, 2020. (AccuWeather)
Sally has lost some wind intensity, now a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. The storm is centered about 75 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Despite losing some wind intensity, Sally remains a very serious threat to the Gulf Coast. Forecasters say that regardless of strength, the hurricane will unleash significant and life-threatening flash flooding due to its slow movement.
Emergency declarations for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have been approved by President Donald Trump ahead of Hurricane Sally. The president stated on Twitter that he and his team "are closely monitoring extremely dangerous Hurricane Sally." He added that people in these states should be ready and listen to state and local officials.
NOAA’s team of Hurricane Hunters have been flying missions into the center of Sally to investigate the storm and to record real-time data about the strengthening hurricane, and on Monday, snapped an up-close image of its eye. The Hurricane Hunters will continue to fly missions into the strengthening storm through Tuesday to gather more data prior to making landfall on Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Eye of Hurricane Sally during intensification seen from NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters on Sept. 14, 2020. (NOAA/James Carpenter)
While Hurricane Sally remains a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, the storm slowed down more Monday evening. Sally is moving forward toward the U.S. Gulf Coast at 5 mph, slowing from an earlier 6 mph speed reported by the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane had been moving by as much as 9 mph early Monday. The storm is about 100 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River as it moves west-northwest, according to the latest advisory.
A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) coastal change forecast predicts Hurricane Sally may heavily damage some sandy beaches in Mississippi, while beaches in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida may see moderate to minor damage. The agency reported 36% of Mississippi’s sandy beaches are forecast to be inundated, or continuously covered by ocean water. “This is the most severe type of storm effect on coastal beaches, with flooding behind the dunes that may affect coastal communities,” the release said. Louisiana and Alabama beaches will also encounter some inundation with 7% of Louisiana’s and 1% of Alabama’s beaches projected to be inundated. Hurricane Sally’s coastal erosion effects are expected to occur mostly from Breton National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana through Alabama beaches west of Mobile Bay. Overwash, the second-worst type of coastal damage, occurs when waves and surge reach higher than the top of dunes. USGS said 61% of sandy beaches along Mississippi’s coast are expected to be overwashed, while 21% of Lousiana’s and 14% of Alabama’s beaches will be overwashed by Sally. When a beach is overwashed, the USGS said large amounts of sand can be deposited inland, causing significant changes to the landscape.
Hurricane Sally spinning just off the Gulf Coast on Monday evening. (NOAA/GOES-East)
The coast of Alabama was pounded by high surf on Monday well ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Sally’s rain and wind. A few car owners found their cars sinking in the sand due to the early storm surge on Dauphin Island, Alabama. “Unfortunately, there is a third vehicle behind the car on the left in this photo,” Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said on Facebook. Time is quickly running out for people on Dauphin Island to brace for Sally as the storm slowly approached the Gulf Coast.
AccuWeather is predicting a 6 to 10-foot storm surge, which will be one of the biggest impacts of Hurricane Sally. Storm surge arrives ahead of approaching storms as quickly rising floodwaters. It's not only the height but the movement, wave action and force of the surge that can lead to so much destruction. These floodwaters are often the greater threat to both lives and property than the wind even before a hurricane makes landfall. "Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said. "The force of the winds moving counterclockwise around the storm will push the water toward the shore." Generally, the faster the wind speed and forward motion of the hurricane, the higher the surge. In turn, the higher maximum sustained wind speed of a hurricane that determines its category status will also affect the height of the storm surge.
The center of Hurricane Sally is still more than 100 miles off the Gulf Coast, but storm surge is already causing flooding along the shores of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Drone footage from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi shows some streets already underwater despite some blue skies. Some areas could remain underwater for an extended period of time as storm surge continues and heavy, flooding rainfall moves inland. Click here to watch a video of the flooding as seen from the air.
Hurricane Sally continues to strengthen and is now a Category 2 storm. “Data from reconnaissance aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 100 mph with higher gusts,” the National Hurricane Center stated in an update late Monday afternoon. To be a Category 2 storm, maximum sustained winds must be 96 to 110 mph. With Sally still strengthening, there is a chance that it could become a Category 3 before landfall, which is the threshold to be considered a major hurricane.
All eyes are on the Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Sally strengthens as it tracks toward the Gulf Coast, but how does it stack up against Hurricane Laura, which slammed Louisiana in late August? On satellite, the two hurricanes appear to be around the same size, both about 500 to 600 miles wide. However, Laura was significantly stronger. The devastating storm made landfall when it was at peak intensity with winds of 150 mph, just 7 mph shy of being classified as a Category 5 hurricane. Sally is currently a Category 1 storm with maximum winds of 90 mph but is projected to strengthen into a Category 2 or possibly even a Category 3 storm before making landfall early Tuesday. Even though Sally is not as strong as Laura was, people should still prepare for the hurricane as it can unload flooding rain and life-threatening storm surge.
The image below is a composite of the two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico with Hurricane Laura on the left, as seen on Aug. 26, and Hurricane Sally on the right, as seen on Sept. 14.
This image is a composite of two satellite images taken by NOAA’s GOES-East weather satellite; one image from Aug. 26, 2020 showing Hurricane Laura (left) and one image from Sept. 14, 2020 showing Hurricane Sally (right).
All Alabama beaches will be closed starting at 3:00 p.m. local time on Monday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced after she declared a state of emergency for Sally. Gov. Ivey also recommends evacuations of flood-prone areas south of Interstate 10. The evacuation recommendation applies to people who live in low-lying and flood-prone areas and those in mobile homes and manufactured homes. “As the recently upgraded Hurricane Sally continues heading closer to the Gulf Coast, we must give individuals time to prepare for the anticipated impacts of this storm,” Ivey said. “Alabamians are no stranger to tropical weather and the significant damage these storms can do, even though our state is not currently in the direct line of impact. Locals will need to prepare their homes, businesses and personal property for imminent storm surge, heavy rain and flash flooding. I urge everyone to tune in to their trusted weather source, and pay attention to your local officials for updates regarding your area as they make further recommendations based off the unique needs of your community.”
Hurricane Sally continues to strengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and AccuWeather meteorologists now say it could flirt with major hurricane status. As of 2 p.m. EDT, the storm's winds have increased to 90 mph, just six mph below Category 2 strength. The storm is now expected to reach Category 2 strength today and there is a chance the hurricane could hit the Gulf Coast at near major hurricane strength (Category 3 or higher) with winds of at least 111 mph. Sally is 'meandering" over the north-central Gulf, the NHC said and is about 160 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.
AccuWeather meteorologists say slow-moving Hurricane Sally could trigger serious flooding damage even as it weakens over land as the week progresses. While a repeat of the historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 is not anticipated, Sally's flooding could still prove disastrous, with up two 2 feet of rain forecast for some areas. Harvey dropped more than 60 inches of rain over southeastern Texas rain over several days.
"A large swath of 4- to 8-inch rainfall is forecast from the central Gulf coast to the southern Appalachians, but an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ rainfall of 24 inches is forecast in parts of southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, southeastern Louisiana and the western part of the Florida Panhandle as Sally crawls along," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.
Sally rapidly strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane right around 12 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center said. Sally has maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and is located about 175 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi. Sally is now the seventh hurricane of the 2020 season joining Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Marco, Nana and Paulette.
The tropical storm warning and hurricane watch from the Mississippi/Alabama Border to the Alabama/Florida Border has been changed to a hurricane warning, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. EDT update. Sally, still a tropical storm, is about 140 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 185 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.
Tropical Storm Vicky formed Monday morning in the far eastern Atlantic, about 350 miles west-northwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. Vicky is the second tropical storm to form on Monday after Teddy did so during the early morning hours. Unlike Teddy, which is currently forecast to become a major hurricane later this week, Vicky is expected to be short-lived and not reach hurricane strength. The image below captures the jam-packed Atlantic basin and the current location of all the named systems. In addition to the named storms, forecasters are also keeping a close eye on a disturbance in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, which currently has a low chance of development.
With the exclusion of Rene, which is a depression, the last time there were four named storms simultaneously in the Atlantic was in 2018, according to Colorado State University Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. From Sept. 12-14, 2018, Florence, Helene, Isaac and Joyce were all active systems, Klotzbach noted on Twitter.
Extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer was in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Monday morning, a costal city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago. Timmer reported that minor coastal flooding was already occurring in the city ahead of Sally, which was still over 100 miles away in the Gulf of Mexico. Timmer also noted that many residents have evacuated the area. A storm surge of 6-10 feet is forecast for Bay St. Louis, which is about 60 miles northeast of New Orleans. Hear more from Timmer in the video below.
Preparations are being rushed to completion in areas from southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle ahead of Tropical Storm Sally, which forecasters expect to strengthen into a hurricane before landfall. Homes were seen boarded up in Hancock County, Mississippi, on Sunday, and evacuations have been ordered for residents who live in low-lying areas. Hancock County is located along the Louisiana-Mississippi border. Elsewhere in Mississippi, boaters scrambled to pull their boats from the water to store them safely inland on higher ground.
A house is boarded up in Hancock County, Mississippi. (ABC News)
Sally is growing stronger as its maximum sustained winds are now up to 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center's latest advisory. The storm is located about 115 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 165 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi. Sally is moving to the west-northwest at a speed of 8 mph. Sally will become a Category 1 hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph.
Tropical Storm Sally grows stronger near the Gulf Coast early Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (CIRA RAMMB)
Sally is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which rates hurricanes based on their sustained wind speed. However, AccuWeather meteorologists say Sally's impacts will go beyond damaging winds and are notably concerned about life-threatening flooding that the storm could produce. Because of the wind and rain impacts combined, Sally has been rated a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes.
The AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes is a 6-point scale with ratings of less than one and 1 to 5 that was introduced by AccuWeather in 2019 to rate tropical systems based on multiple impacts, rather than just wind, like the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale does.
Sally's outer bands are already lashing parts of the northern Gulf Coast and conditions are expected to deteriorate by late Monday as the storm produces a life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds and flash flooding.
State of emergency declarations have already been issued by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves ahead of Sally's arrival. "This when combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, can make us all weary," Edwards said on Twitter. "I implore Louisianans to take their preparations seriously."
Tropical Storm Sally seen on radar in the Gulf of Mexico early Monday morning, Sept. 14, 2020.
Hurricane experts expect Tropical Storm Sally to become a Category 1 hurricane by Monday afternoon ahead of its expected Tuesday landfall. As of 5 a.m. EDT Monday morning, the storm system was located 120 miles east-southeast of the mouth of Mississippi River and moving west-northwestward at 9 mph with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
As of 5 a.m. Monday morning Sally is located 120 miles east-southeast of the mouth of Mississippi River and moving west-northwestward at 9 mph with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. (Satellite image via NOAA GOES)