Hurricane Sally uprooted trees, flooded highways, and cut electricity linked to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the Alabama-Florida coast as it delivered what the United States National Hurricane Center called “historic and catastrophic” flooding.
The hurricane which made an early Wednesday landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm, was downgraded to a tropical storm in the afternoon as maximum sustained winds fell to 113 kph (70 miles per hour).
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that some areas of the Gulf Coast had been inundated with more than 18 inches (46 cm) of rain over the previous 24 hours, with further precipitation anticipated as the storm’s winds slow further.
“Normally it goes away. But with this one it was first The anxiety of it coming and then when it finally came, it didn’t move,” said Preity Patel, 41, who has resided in a downtown Pensacola apartment for two years. “It was just constant rain and wind,” Patel said.
Several people along the coasts of Alabama and Florida have said they were caught off guard by damage from the slow-moving storm. Pensacola, Florida’s coastal city suffered from floods of up to five feet, and travel was cut off by damaged roads and bridges.
As the storm knocked down stately oak trees and ripped power lines from poles, more than 500,000 homes and businesses throughout the area were without power.
About a quarter of the US Offshore oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico remained shut down by Hurricane Sally, which moved inland on Wednesday, dumping heavy rains and slashing U.S. fuel demand according to REUTERS.
In the United States, about 508,000 barrels per day of oil production and 805 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of natural gas production has been shut down in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico According to the U.S. Department of Interior, that’s around a third of the shut-ins triggered in August by Hurricane Laura, which landed further west.
There is a “significant section” missing from a section of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, also known as the “Three Mile Bridge,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference.
The storm was moving towards the Alabama-Florida border at a slow 5 mph rate but was expected to pick up speed, the NHC said.
“The rain is what stands out with this one: It’s unreal,” said Cavin Hollyhand, 50, who left his home on a barrier island and took shelter in Mobile, Alabama, where he viewed the damage on Wednesday. Some isolated areas could see up to 35 inches (89 cm) of rain before Sally is done, the NHC said.
Sally’s winds were clocked at 105 mph upon arrival on the Gulf Shores. Piers were torn off along the coast by the storm surge and winds.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey advised people not to go outside to search for damage and stay away from living power lines and fallen trees unless necessary.
“We had strong winds for a long period of time,” said 38-year-old Grant Saltz as he took a break from clearing debris outside his Mobile restaurant. “Instead of a few hours, we got it for 12 hours.”
Nearly 90 massive wildfires continue to burn and scorch millions of acres as the United States suffers multiple climate impacts.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), there are 87 active major fires that have burned up over 4.6 million acres in 10 states. The wildfires have most of the activities focused on California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.