Hurricane Sally has made landfall within the United States, taking shape as a Category 2 storm.
Early Wednesday morning, Sally hit the Gulf Coast near the Alabama-Florida border, with maximum sustained winds up to 105 mph at about 5:45 a.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. More than 320,000 people along the Gulf Coast, CNN reports, are currently experiencing power outages, and thousands have already evacuated their homes.
According to NBC News, the hurricane is traveling slowly — at about 2 mph — meaning prolonged rainfall could lead to severe flooding.
In an update on Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said that "hurricane-force winds are spreading inland over southeastern Alabama and western portion of the Florida Panhandle." The experts warned that "catastrophic and life-threatening flooding likely along portions of the north-central Gulf Coast."
In a public advisory posted early Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said Sally's center is expected to pass the coast of southeastern Louisiana later in the day and predicted that it would make landfall Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
"Historic flooding is possible from Sally with extreme life-threatening flash flooding likely through Wednesday along portions of the northern Gulf Coast," the advisory said at the time.
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Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said “devastating” rainfall that could lead to drownings is expected in large areas, the Associated Press reported.
“This is going to be historic flooding along with the historic rainfall,” Stewart said. “If people live near rivers, small streams and creeks, they need to evacuate and go somewhere else.”
In a press conference on Monday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson of Mobile, Alabama, similarly warned residents that a “tremendous amount of flooding" is to be expected. In anticipation of the storm, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an emergency in the state’s westernmost counties, and President Donald Trump issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday, the AP reported.
Hurricane Sally will be the second major storm to hit the Gulf Coast in the past few weeks following Hurricane Laura in August, marking what is shaping up to be a historic storm season.
Apart from Sally, there are currently four active tropical cyclones — Hurricane Paulette, Tropical Storm Teddy, Tropical Storm Vicky, and Tropical Depression Rene — in the Atlantic. The only other time there have been five active systems in this ocean was in 1971, according to CNN.
Many experts have attributed the more intense storms to climate change, which can lead to rapid intensification, the slowing down of hurricanes and increased rainfall.
“Our confidence continues to grow that storms have become stronger, and it is linked to climate change and they will continue to get stronger as the world continues to warm,” Jim Kossin, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Wisconsin, told The Washington Post last month.
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