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|September 23, 2020|
Hurricane Sally could dump 30 inches of rain on parts of Gulf Coast
AccuWeather forecasters on Tuesday increased total rainfall projections for Hurricane Sally, saying the storm could unleash up to 30 inches of precipitation on parts of the Gulf Coast. The increase in the amount of forecast rainfall was due to the storm's decreased forward speed. Monday night into Tuesday Sally had crawled to a pace of just 2 mph as it inched closer to land.
The storm was already kicking up a significant storm surge in some places along the coastline in Louisiana and caused flooding in Alabama.
Sally peaked Monday evening as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds reaching 100 mph, but the storm lost some wind intensity early Tuesday morning and was downgraded to a Category 1 storm. As of 5 p.m. EDT, Sally had sustained winds of 80 mph.
AccuWeather's top hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said on Monday that some weakening was possible prior to landfall "due to slow movement of the storm causing Gulf waters to cool, an uptick in wind shear and increased friction from the land."
However, as a consequence of a stalled hurricane just offshore, waves and rain will batter the immediate coast for an extended period with long-duration storm surge flooding.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall as a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane sometime on Wednesday. Landfall timing is dependent on exactly when the storm begins to drift northward from its nearly stationary position.
Gulf Coast residents were rushing preparations to completion on Monday as the region braced for another hit from a hurricane, a little over two weeks after Laura’s devastating blow to areas over western Louisiana and the upper Texas coast. Forecasters noted that New Orleans will avoid the majority of the impacts from Sally, due to an eastward shift in the storm's track. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) discontinued hurricane warnings and then later dropped tropical storm warnings on Tuesday for Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.
Hurricane warnings were in effect from east of Bay St. Louis, which is located about 50 miles northeast of New Orleans along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, to Navarre, Florida, which is located just east of Pensacola. Topical storm warnings extend westward along the Gulf Coast to Grand Isle, Louisiana, which sits in the far southeastern parts of the state, and eastward to Indian Pass, Florida, a coastal town more than 150 miles east of Pensacola.
Storm surge warnings, which indicate the danger of life-threatening inundation, were posted from the Mouth of the Mississippi River to the Okaloosa/Walton County line in Florida and for Mobile Bay.
State of emergency declarations have been issued by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey prior to Sally closing in on the region. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in low-lying areas of Mississippi and Louisiana, including for areas outside of New Orleans levee system. Officials closed Alabama beaches effective at 3:00 p.m. Monday, and Ivey recommended evacuations for flood-prone areas south of Interstate 10.
AccuWeather meteorologists expect Sally to take a northward turn with a landfall along the coast of Alabama early Wednesday morning. With this more eastward track, concern is increasing for a significant storm surge on Mobile Bay, Alabama, and increased surge in Pensacola Bay.
Sally was the earliest named "S-Storm" to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean basin, beating out 2005's Hurricane Stan which was named on Oct. 2.
In less than 24 hours, Sally went from being a mass of showers and thunderstorms east of the Bahamas on Friday afternoon and to a tropical depression on Friday evening, before becoming a tropical storm on Saturday afternoon. (Source: AccuWeather)
Story Date: September 16, 2020