Miami, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Slow-moving Sally made landfall Wednesday morning near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds of nearly 165 kilometers (105 miles) per hour and bringing torrential rains.
Rainfall from the hurricane was the main concern, with the Miami-based National Hurricane Center saying that “historic and catastrophic flooding, including widespread moderate to major river flooding, is unfolding.”
In its latest bulletin, the NHC said that through Wednesday afternoon Sally will produce additional rainfall totals of 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 inches) along the central Gulf Coast and just inland from the coast – from west of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, to Mobile Bay, Alabama.
It noted that isolated total storm totals of as much as 89 cm of rain are expected.
The storm surge provoked by the hurricane also is causing flooding, particularly in a section of the United States Gulf Coast that includes the Alabama-Florida border and coastal sections of Florida’s northwestern-most counties.
Sally, which had been almost stationary in recent days off the coast of the state of Louisiana, turned to the north-northeast and strengthened overnight before making landfall at around 6.45 am local time.
It is the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama since 2004.
Initial reports from that area indicate that rain fell throughout the night and that the wind knocked down trees and caused building cornices and other structural elements to fall.
Thus far, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.
Power cuts began before the hurricane made landfall; according to the PowerOutage.com portal, which tracks power cuts worldwide, 278,694 customers are without electricity in Alabama, 230,078 in Florida and 57,335 in Louisiana.
Since making landfall, Sally has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 km/h.
It currently is moving toward the north-northeast at a slightly faster forward speed of seven km/h (five mph); the hurricane is expected to pick up more speed later Wednesday and chart a path that takes its eye across the extreme western Florida panhandle and southeastern Alabama through early Thursday.
Sally is then forecast to move over central Georgia on Thursday as a tropical storm and over South Carolina on Thursday night as a tropical depression.
Besides the threat posed by rainfall, storm surge and wind, the NHC also warned of the possibility of tornadoes on Wednesday across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. EFE-EPA