Hurricane Sally Hit The Gulf Coast With Storm Surges, Heavy Rain, And 100 MPH Winds

On Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center warned of “historic and catastrophic flooding” from the slow-moving storm.

Note: The maps below are no longer being updated.

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, just before 5 am Wednesday local time, bringing a major storm surge and torrential rain to the area and parts of the Florida Panhandle.

“Historic and catastrophic flooding is unfolding,” the National Hurricane Center said in a statement issued a couple of hours after the storm hit land. It warned that the storm would bring between 10 and 20 inches of rain to parts of the Gulf Coast, with isolated totals of up to 35 inches in some places.

Early reports also indicated significant damage in Gulf Shores from winds of more than 100 mph, with some roofs blown off and at least one condo building losing parts of its exterior walls. Shortly after 9 am Central Time, the website PowerOutage.US was reporting more than 440,000 customers without power in Alabama and Florida.

We are now at the peak of an unusually active hurricane season. On Sept 14, five tropical cyclones were active in the Atlantic basin at the same time — the only other time this many cyclones have been recorded at once was in 1971.

Forecast track and rain in the next seven days

Times shown are US Central Time. Peter Aldhous / BuzzFeed News / Via NOAA/NWS

Sally brought massive rainfall even before it finally came ashore, moving forward at just 2 mph. Initially forecast to make landfall in southeast Louisiana, the hurricane meandered toward the coast over the past couple of days, instead hitting some 200 miles to the east.

This map shows the projected track of the storm, with forecast rain still to come. “Through this 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,” the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday morning.

Slow-moving storms increase the danger of flash flooding from heavy rain — especially in more developed urban areas, where it’s harder for water to drain away. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey stalled over southern Texas, dumping more than 60 inches in some places and smashing US rainfall records. The hurricane ultimately caused upwards of $125 billion in damages.

Forecast track and wind probabilities

Times shown are US Central Time. Peter Aldhous / BuzzFeed News / Via NOAA/NWS

This updating map shows the predicted track and forecast winds from the storm. Use the control to toggle between the likelihood of tropical-storm-force winds (more than 39 mph) and hurricane-force winds (more than 74 mph).

Sally is the earliest “S”-named storm to form in the Atlantic basin, beating 2005’s Stan, which wasn’t named until October 2. With Teddy and Vicky having already been named, only Wilfred is left before new storms will be assigned Greek letters. But while this year is on track to eclipse 2005 as the busiest hurricane season on record for named storms, many of those storms have been of relatively low intensity.

See the National Hurricane Center’s advisories for more information and warnings.

Correction: Hurricane Stan was named on Oct. 2, 2005. An earlier version of this post misstated the date.

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