Overnight Hurricane Sally grew to a powerful Category 2 storm with 105 mile-per-hour winds, making landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama. The storm now threatens residents from Alabama to the Florida Panhandle with more than two feet of rain.
Slow-moving Sally is expected to bring historic, life-threatening flash floods to parts of the Gulf Coast with heavy downpours of 10 to 30 inches of rain.
Flood alerts stretched nearly 700 miles along the Gulf Coast as dangerous storm surge is also expected for several communities.
“Hurricane Sally is a Category 2 moving north, northeast around three miles per hour. Still slow-moving, so that rainfall is going to be something to consider here. We are worried about extreme flooding,” said Accuweather meteorologist Daji Aswad.
Governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida all declared states of emergency as Sally approached.
Tornado warnings are also in effect for the area. And while the city of New Orleans dodged a bullet, forecasters say it will see minor effects from the storm.
Sally already battered Florida as torrential rains tore apart docks and wind gusts toppled trees.
A large barge crashed into a bridge, knocked loose by heavy winds.
And more than 300,000 customers are without power across the region.
Before the storm’s landfall, authorities in Alabama urged residents along low-lying rivers to evacuate before it was too late.
“In these type of events, usually when the wind reaches about 35 to 40 mph we can no longer have motor vehicles on the road and certainly we cannot launch a boat and do that so there will become a point and time when we would not be able to respond,” said Sheriff Hoss Mack of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.
Some who stayed behind are now trapped by rising water.
“We literally have rain coming through the windows and the door and he has to hold the door shut because it’s blowing open the door,” said Doris Steirs.
Forecasters say Sally could dump four months of rain in just 24 hours.
“I think that everybody on the Gulf Coast just needs everybody’s prayers because there’s gonna be a lot of damage,” Steirs told a local news station.
Forecasters predict as Sally continues its slow trek inland it has the potential to affect people for days to come.