Storm Sally swept through the U.S. state of Alabama and northwestern Florida during the night of Wednesday, September 16 to Thursday, September 17, causing severe flooding. Streets were submerged and hundreds of thousands of homes were without power.
It was reported that one person is reported to have lost his life in the coastal town of Orange Beach, Alabama, but Mayor Tony Kennon said he did not have more information.
It was said that more than 510,000 homes were without power Wednesday in the two states.
Hurricane Sally made landfall Wednesday at 4:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m. GMT) in Gulf Shores, a small town in Alabama. It was a category two hurricane at the time and has since been downgraded to a tropical storm and then a tropical depression.
The winds carried by Sally have calmed down and now reach a maximum speed of 55 km/h (55 mph). The depression is moving slowly (at about 15 km/h), which means continuous rains over the same areas for an extended period of time, intensifying the rising waters, according to the latest bulletin from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued at 3 a.m. GMT Thursday.
“Catastrophic and historic flooding is underway,” the institution also warned.
The streets of the city of Pensacola (northwest Florida), home to some 50,000 people, were transformed into torrents, according to numerous videos circulating on social media.
According to David Morgan, he said the passage of the hurricane had “devastating effects”, during a press conference Wednesday morning. “We anticipate evacuations that will number in the thousands” when they are possible, he warned.
“No one was prepared”
The situation “is bad,” he said, reporting that a portion of a bridge in the city had probably collapsed. “It’s going to take a considerable amount of time to clean it up.”
“No one was prepared for a Category 2 (hurricane). Me and a hundred or so neighbors didn’t put any wooden boards or shutters” on our houses, David Triana, 57, who lives in the small town of Navarra, near Pensacola, told AFP.
Rescue operations were underway and shelters were opened in the area, but authorities urged people to stay safe in their homes whenever possible.
“Extremely dangerous situation”
About 40 miles away, in Alabama, images showed the marina in the seaside town of Orange Beach being swept away, with pleasure boats being blown by the winds to the docks, amidst debris.
Authorities in Baldwin County, where Orange Beach is located, warned Wednesday morning of an “extremely dangerous situation” with “severe and widespread damage.
Due to weather conditions, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who declared a state of emergency on Monday, told the public Wednesday that “there will be delays in restarting power and other essential services.
Governor Ron DeSantis also declared a state of emergency for counties in northwestern Florida.
Hurricane Sally was expected to cross southeastern Alabama overnight before arriving in central Georgia and then South Carolina on Thursday, still accompanied by torrential rains, the National Hurricane Center said.
As the ocean surface warms, hurricanes are getting stronger, according to scientists, who predict an increase in the proportion of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.