Hurricane Sally crashed into the northern Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday morning with winds of more than 100 mph.
The northern eyewall made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, where streets began flooding and winds were bending palm trees. The southern part of the eyewall is only a few hours behind, so torrential rainfall and dangerous storm surge will last all day from southeastern Alabama to the western Florida panhandle.
Ship-to-shore operations remain suspended at several ports, according to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). This includes Mobile, Alabama; Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi; Pensacola, Florida; and the Venice Port complex in Louisiana. The Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, as well as the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, remain open with restrictions.
The Pensacola Bay bridge in Florida will stay closed after winds Tuesday jarred a barge loose, wedging it under the bridge.
Sally became more powerful overnight, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 105 mph at landfall. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.
A sustained wind of 98 mph, with a gust of 116 mph, was measured by a weather observing station in Fort Morgan, Alabama. A University of Florida weather tower located in Gulf Shores reported a sustained wind speed of 75 mph and a gust of 93 mph. A National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoy about 50 miles southeast of Mobile reported a sustained wind of 71 mph.
While Hurricane Sally will cause wind damage and power outages, flooding will be the main issue. Sally could generate 4 to 8 feet of storm surge from Dauphin Island, Alabama, to Pensacola Bay. The Florida and Alabama departments of transportation have already reported closures on portions of Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 98 due to flooding.
Through Wednesday afternoon, Sally will produce additional rainfall totals of 8 to 12 inches, with localized higher amounts possible, along and just inland of the central Gulf Coast from west of Tallahassee, Florida, to Mobile Bay, Alabama. Look for storm totals of 10 to 20 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 35 inches. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that “historic and catastrophic flooding is unfolding” with “life-threatening flooding likely along portions of the northern Gulf Coast.”
After landfall, Sally will weaken. However, the storm could produce heavy rainfall and flash flooding Wednesday night and Thursday from central and eastern Alabama to northern Georgia and the Carolinas.