Hur­ri­cane Sally bears down on Gulf Coast

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Jay Reeves and Angie Wang Jay Reeves and Angie Wang is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. — Heavy rain, pound­ing surf and flash floods hit parts of the Florida Pan­han­dle and the Alabama coast on Tues­day as Hur­ri­cane Sally lum­bered to­ward land at a painfully slow pace, threat­en­ing as much as 30 inches of rain and dan­ger­ous, his­toric flood­ing.

The storm’s cen­ter churned off­shore 65 miles south­south­east of Mo­bile, Ala., as Sally crept north­north­east to­ward an ex­pected Wed­nes­day land­fall at 2 mph, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter.

Hur­ri­cane force winds ex­tended 40 miles. Rain fell side­ways and be­gan cov­er­ing roads in Pen­sacola, Fla., and Mo­bile. A cur­few was or­dered in the coastal Alabama city of Gulf Shores as au­thor­i­ties warned of life­threat­en­ing con­di­tions. More than 60,000 power cus­tomers were with­out elec­tric­ity, ac­cord­ing to power­outage.us.

Up to a foot of rain had fallen al­ready on the coast by Tues­day night, and Sally’s lum­ber­ing pace meant there would likely be ex­tended del­uges.

“A hur­ri­cane mov­ing at 2 mph is stalled for all in­tents and pur­poses,” said Brian Mc­noldy, a hur­ri­cane re­searcher at the Uni­ver­sity of Mi­ami. “If they aren’t mov­ing along and they just kind of sit there, you’re go­ing to get a ridiculous amount of rain.”

Sally strength­ened a bit late Tues­day, with sus­tained winds reach­ing 85 mph. The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter ex­pected Sally to re­main a Cat­e­gory 1 hur­ri­cane when it comes ashore, ad­ding that “his­toric life­threat­en­ing flash flood­ing is likely.”

By Tues­day evening, hur­ri­cane warn­ings stretched from coastal Mis­sis­sippi to the Florida Pan­han­dle. There also was a threat the storm could spawn tor­na­does.

Heavy rain and surf pounded the bar­rier is­land of Navarre Beach, Fla., on Tues­day and road signs wob­bled in the wind. Re­becca Studstill, who lives in­land, was wary of get­ting stuck on the is­land, say­ing po­lice close bridges once the wind and wa­ter get too high. “Just hun­ker­ing down would prob­a­bly be the best thing for folks out here,” she said.

Two large casino boats broke loose Tues­day from a dock where they were un­der­go­ing con­struc­tion work in Bayou La Ba­tre, Ala. M.J. Bosarge, who lives near the ship­yard, said at least one of the river­boats had done con­sid­er­able dam­age to the dock.

Stacy Ste­wart, a hur­ri­cane cen­ter se­nior spe­cial­ist, warned that floods could be deadly.

“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.”

Ger­ald Her­bert / As­so­ci­ated Press

Waves churned up by Hur­ri­cane Sally’s 80 mph winds crash near a pier in Gulf Shores, Ala.

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