Washington, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Tropical Storm Sally, after being downgraded from a hurricane, on Thursday continued to bring heavy rains and flooding to areas along the Gulf Coast from Mississippi to Florida as it moved to the northeast. One death has been reported due to the storm and one person is missing.
As Sally was affecting a wide swath of the southeastern US, meteorologists warned that Hurricane Teddy continues to gain strength in the Atlantic while it moves toward the US East Coast.
Sally made landfall in Alabama as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday morning and continued moving north-northeast at some 20 kilometers (13 miles) per hour, unloading torrential rain along its path into western Georgia and cutting electric power to more than half a million customers.
The storm’s relatively slow progress has created a situation where much heavier than normal rainfall has deluged eastern Alabama and western Georgia after the storm reached the Alabama-Florida border with winds of 165 kph (102 mph) destroying whole neighborhoods and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of local residents.
The mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama, Tony Kennon, told local WSFA television that at least one person had died and another was missing after Sally hit the coast, the fourth hurricane to make landfall in the US so far this storm season.
Across a good part of the affected region, from Mississippi to Florida, authorities have issued evacuation orders for the areas closest to the coast, opening shelters to provide for the families that must move in.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center in its 6 am bulletin on Thursday said that the center of the storm, which at the time was packing sustained winds of 50 kph (31 mph), was crossing over southern Alabama.
Meanwhile, the NHC said that Teddy, the next-to-last name assigned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for hurricanes predicted for this year, was growing in wind strength from its current 70 kph (43 mph) and is moving at 20 kph (12 mph) westward toward the US East Coast.
According to the track calculated by the NHC, and in contrast to Sally, which entered the Gulf of Mexico before coming ashore, Teddy is expected to pass north of the Bahamas on Saturday and on Sunday it will continue on its path toward the coast of Georgia, both South and North Carolina and Virginia.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference that almost 600 search and rescue operations had been launched since Sally made landfall on Wednesday, adding that the state activated 500 National Guard troops to help in those tasks.
Pensacola Fire Chief Ginny Cranor said on television that in just four hours her western Florida city received some 37 inches of rain, the equivalent of four months of rainfall during “normal” times.
Meteorologists said that local residents could expect rainfall of between 10 – 33 inches from Mobile Bay to Tallahassee, Florida.
Alabama authorities warned that although Sally has lessened in strength, residents should remain alert to the threat of flooding.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson urged local residents to remain in their homes and to keep away from fallen electrical wires, while traffic along several state and interstate roadways has been halted due to flooding.