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Hurricane Sally Slows, Gathering A Deluge For The Gulf Coast

Workers move a levee gate
Chris Granger/The Advocate via AP
Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, crews prepare to move a levee gate as they get ready for Hurricane Sally on Monday.

Hurricane Sally is crawling toward the northern Gulf Coast at just 2 mph, a pace that's enabling the storm to gather huge amounts of water to eventually dump on land.

Hurricane Sally, a plodding storm with winds of 85 mph (137 kph), crept toward the northern Gulf Coast early Tuesday as forecasters warned of potentially deadly storm surges and flash floods with up to 2 feet of rain and the possibility of tornadoes.

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.

By early Tuesday, hurricane warnings stretched from the mouth of the Pearl River at the Louisiana-Mississippi line to Navarre, Florida, and forecasters said Sally should reach land near the Alabama-Mississippi state line by late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Slow moving Hurricane Sally will approach the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama today before likely making landfall late tonight or early Wednesday. Very heavy rainfall will accompany this system which is likely to produce widespread life-threatening flash flooding. <a href="https://t.co/hjeo0cMYBJ">pic.twitter.com/hjeo0cMYBJ</a></p>— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) <a href="

">September 15, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Stacy Stewart, 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, he said.

“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.”

The storm was moving at only 2 mph before dawn on Tuesday, centered about 115 miles south-southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi, and 60 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Forecasters expect Sally to turn northward Tuesday afternoon, moving near the coast of southeastern Louisiana later in the day, and then travel slowly north-northeastward through Wednesday, remaining a Category 1 hurricane, with top winds of 85 mph, until it comes ashore.

After making landfall, Sally was forecast to cause flash floods and minor to moderate river flooding across inland portions of Mississippi, Alabama, northern Georgia and the western Carolinas through the rest of the week.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an emergency in the Panhandle’s westernmost counties, which were being pummeled by rain from Sally’s outer bands early Tuesday. The threat of heavy rain and storm surge was exacerbated by the storm’s slow movement.

President Donald Trump issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday, and tweeted that residents should listen to state and local leaders.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sought the presidential declaration after the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, warned of the increasing likelihood of “dangerous and potentially historic flooding,” with waters rising as much as 9 feet above ground in parts of the Mobile metro area.

It all seemed a distant threat Monday afternoon in Waveland, Mississippi, as a shirtless, barefooted Trevor Claunch, of nearby Bay St. Louis, got in some last-minute beach time. But there were signs of trouble coming. Claunch marveled at how the Gulf waters had already crept over swaths of sandy shore and infiltrated bike paths and parking lots.