Thu | Jan 21, 2021

‘Huge rainmaker’: Hurricane Sally threatens historic floods

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2020 | 3:54 PM
Waves crash near a pier at Gulf State Park Tuesday, September 15, 2020, in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Hurricane Sally is crawling toward the northern Gulf Coast at just two miles per hour, a pace that's enabling the storm to gather huge amounts of water to eventually dump on land. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbrt)

ORANGE BEACH, Alabama (AP) — Hurricane Sally drifted in a slow crawl Tuesday toward the northern Gulf Coast, threatening dangerous storm surge and relentless rainfall that forecasters warned could trigger historic flooding as the storm was expected to hover in the area long after coming ashore.

“It’s going to be a huge rainmaker,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist and meteorologist at Colorado State University. “It’s not going to be pretty.”

The National Hurricane Center expects Sally to remain a Category 1 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour when it makes landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

The storm’s sluggish pace made it harder to predict exactly where its center will strike, though it was expected to reach land near the Mississippi-Alabama state line.

The hurricane’s slow movement not only delayed landfall, but also exacerbated the threat of heavy rain and storm surge.

Sally remained a dangerous storm Tuesday even after losing power, its fiercest winds having dropped considerably from a peak of 100 miles per hour on Monday.

By late morning Tuesday, hurricane warnings stretched from east of Bay St Louis, Mississippi, to Navarre, Florida.

Rainfall of up to 20 inches was forecast near the coast.

There was a chance the storm could also spawn tornadoes and dump isolated rain accumulations of 30 inches.

The storm was moving at only two miles per hour Tuesday afternoon, centre about 105 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, and 60 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Hurricane-force winds stretched 45 miles from its centre.

Forecasters expected Sally to move slowly northward Tuesday, with the storm’s center bypassing the coast of southeastern Louisiana.

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.

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