Hurricane Sally Gathers A Deluge For The Gulf Coast

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Photo credit Waves crash near a pier, at Gulf State Park, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Gulf Shores, Ala. 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. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbrt)

NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Heavy rain, pounding surf and flash floods hit parts of the Florida Panhandle and the Alabama coast on Tuesday as Hurricane Sally lumbered toward land at a painfully slow pace, threatening as much as 30 inches of rain and dangerous, historic flooding.

The storm's center churned offshore 70 miles (115 kilometers) south of Mobile, Alabama, as Sally crept north-northeast toward an expected Wednesday landfall at 2 mph (3 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane force winds extended 40 miles (65 kilometers). Rain fell sideways and began covering roads in Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile. A curfew was ordered in the coastal Alabama city of Gulf Shores as authorities warned of life-threatening conditions. More than 60,000 power customers were without electricity, according to poweroutage.us .

Up to a foot (more than 30 centimeters) of rain had fallen already on the coast by Tuesday night and Sally's lumbering pace meant there would likely be extended deluges.

“A hurricane moving at 2 mph is stalled for all intents and purposes,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami. “If they aren’t moving along and they just kind of sit there, you’re going to get a ridiculous amount of rain.”

Sally strengthened a bit late Tuesday, with sustained winds reaching 85 mph (140 kph). It remained dangerous even though its winds were down considerably from a fierce peak of 100 mph (161 kph) on Monday. The National Hurricane Center expected Sally to remain a Category 1 hurricane when it comes ashore, adding “historic life-threatening flash flooding is likely."

By Tue