WAVELAND, Miss. (AP) — Hurricane Sally moved slowly along the Gulf Coast on Monday with winds of 100 mph and heavy rain as forecasters warned of flooding from the rain and surge as governors declared states of emergency.
Sally once appeared to have New Orleans in its sights and it was still moving toward the tip of southeast Louisiana late Monday. But forecasters continued to nudge the track eastward throughout the day, and now expect the storm to blow ashore near the Mississippi-Alabama state line.
Sally was expected to produce between 8-16 inches of rain from the Florida Panhandle to southeastern Mississippi through mid-week, with 2 feet of rain possible in isolated spots. There also was a possibility of tornadoes in the Panhandle and south Alabama late Monday and early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said in its public advisory.
“This is the real deal, and it deserves your attention,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter. “Be smart. Prepare for worst. Pray for the best,” he said.
Hurricane warnings stretched from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Navarre, Florida.
President Donald Trump tweeted late Monday that he was closely monitoring “extremely dangerous Hurricane Sally.” Trump urged residents to “be ready and listen to State and Local Leaders!”
Earlier Monday, the president issued an emergency declaration for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, an action that authorizes federal emergency officials to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency assistance to the affected areas.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sought the presidential declaration after the National Weather Service in Mobile warned of the increasing likelihood of dangerous flooding.” The weather service forecast that waters could rise as much as 9 feet above ground in large parts of the Mobile metro area. With a population of 400,000 people, it is among the largest metro areas along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Tampa, Florida.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the Panhandle’s westernmost counties, Escambia and Santa Rosa as the hurricane’s outer bands began to lash the area. All along the Gulf Coast, residents hurried to buy bottled water and other supplies ahead of the hurricane, which powered up to a Category 2 in the afternoon. Forecasters said sustained winds could reach 110 mph, just below Category 3 strength, by landfall.
Seawater and sand swept onto roads on one end of Dauphin Island off the coast of Alabama, washing away several cars, Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said. He said about a dozen people had to be evacuated by Humvee.
In coastal Mississippi, water spilled onto roads, lawns and docks well before the storm’s arrival. All 12 casinos were ordered to shut down Monday afternoon. Reeves urged residents of low-lying areas to prepare to evacuate.
Reeves said Sally could dump up to 20 inches of rain on the southern part of the state. Shelters opened, but officials urged people who are evacuating to stay with friends or relatives or in hotels, if possible, because of the coronavirus.
The town of Kiln, Mississippi, where many homes sit high on stilts along the Jourdan River and its tributaries, was under a mandatory evacuation order, and it appeared most residents obeyed.
The last time five tropical cyclones were in the Atlantic basin at the same time was in 1971.
In addition to Sally were Hurricane Paulette, which passed over a well-fortified Bermuda on Monday and was expected to peel harmlessly out into the North Atlantic; and Tropical Storms Rene, Teddy and Vicky, all of them out at sea and unlikely to threaten land this week, if at all. Rene was downgraded to a trough of low pressure Monday evening.
Sally was about 130 miles south of Biloxi, Mississippi, on Monday night, moving at 3 mph. The hurricane’s sluggish pace could give it more time to drench the Mississippi Delta with rain and storm surge.
On Aug. 27, Hurricane Laura blew ashore in southwestern Louisiana along the Texas line, well west of New Orleans. More than 2,000 evacuees from Hurricane Laura remain sheltered in Louisiana, most of them in New Orleans-area hotels, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.