After making landfall early Wednesday in Alabama and neighboring Florida, Sally has reduced her strength from a Category 2 hurricane to a tropical storm, leaving torrential rains and forcing thousands of people to evacuate. The storm leaves images of people trapped on the roofs of their houses asking for help due to the floods; fallen trees; and power outages as it continues to create destruction and chaos in its slow advance.
The storm, which is traveling at just 7 kilometers per hour, made landfall in the early hours of Wednesday to come to a virtual standstill off the coasts of Alabama and northwest Florida. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC, acronym in English), “catastrophic and life-threatening floods are occurring over parts of northwest Florida and southern Alabama.”
Various local media show videos of cities like Orange Beach, Alabama, with the streets completely flooded. To the storm surge on the coast, we must add the possibility that the rivers in the area overflow and cause major flooding. Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 205 kilometers from its center.
Streets turned into rivers in Pensacola (Florida) carrying debris is another risk that the police are warning the inhabitants of the city, who face a flood emergency and more than half a million inhabitants without access to electricity.
“Nothing we are seeing is going to change anytime soon,” said Ken Graham, NHC director. “The winds, the torrential rains, the slow advance of the storm … everything makes it a very dangerous situation.”
In the coastal town of Gulf Shore, Alabama, a curfew has been declared due to dangerous weather conditions. In Escambia County, on the northeast strip of Florida, police promised to keep officers on the street for as long as physically possible. The county includes Pensacola, one of the largest cities on the US Gulf of Mexico coast. “The police will be there until we can no longer be safely, and only then will we withdraw our officers,” it was explained in a statement.
The Governor of Mississippi (neighboring state), Tate Reeves, urged people in the south of his state to prepare for eventual floods. After causing rains on the coast on Wednesday, Sally was expected to drop heavy downpours in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas in the remainder of the week.