Hurricane Sally on Wednesday lurched ashore near Florida-Alabama line on Wednesday leaving more than half a million Americans without power as it brought what the United States’ National Hurricane Center (NHC) called “historic and catastrophic.”
As per the official record, Sally hit the Pensacola, in Florida badly, killing one person, another missing in the town of Orange Beach, Alabama, in the deadly storm while many were rescued.
According to NHC, some parts of the US Gulf Coast had been flooded with more than 46cm of rain over the last 24 hours and is expecting more rainfall as the storm winds slow further. They added that “Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues over portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama.”
The NHC report shows, Sally, weakened after it landed near the Gulf Shores Alabama about 50 kilometres from Pensacola, Florida, in the early hours of Wednesday, as a Category 2 storm with maximum wind speeds of 105mph (169 km/h).
The storm later became a tropical depression with winds decreasing to 35mph, but it has been the torrents of rainfall and high storm surges that have caused most of the damage as it moved toward north from the coast to metropolitan areas encompassing nearly 1 million people.
Damages Caused by Hurricane Sally
Residents along the Alabama and Florida coasts said the damage from the slow-moving storm caught them off guard. The coastal community of Pensacola, Florida, suffered up to 5 feet of flooding, damaged roads and bridges cut travel. More than 550,000 homes and businesses across the affected area were left in the dark as the storm knocked over large oak trees and tore power lines from poles.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference that Sally tore loose a barge-mounted construction crane, which then smashed into section of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, also known as the “Three Mile Bridge”, and “significant section,” went missing.
The storm also ripped away a large section of a fishing dock at Alabama’s Gulf State Park on the very day a ribbon-cutting had been scheduled following a 2.4 million dollar worth renovation.
A boat got loose and headed for the Escambia Bay Bridge but luckily ran ashore.
Compared to the deadly Hurricane Laura, which struck last month, Sally did not have the devastating power, but still ripped boats from moorings and sent one barge careering into the under-construction Bay Bridge. They were indeed high enough to topple high-sided vehicles.
According to Chuck Watson of Enki Research, damage from Sally is expected to reach between 2 to 3, billion dollars, and even above which tracks tropical storms and models the cost of their damage.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told residents not to check on damages outside unless necessary, and warned citizens to stay away from live power lines and fallen trees. She further said many areas around Mobile were seeing historic flood levels and urged people to heed warnings.
The Electrical crews from other states have arrived in Pensacola and Alabama to aid in restoration efforts.
Alabama, Florida and Mississippi all declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.
Sally is the 18th named storm in the Atlantic this year and the eighth tropical storm of hurricane strength to hit the US. As per officials, there are currently three other named storms in the Atlantic, making this one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.
Ports of the western Gulf Coast was reopened as the storm moved east and inland, as travel, and energy companies begin to return crews to offshore oil platforms.
Sally shut more than a quarter of US Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas production. Two coastal oil refiners halted or slowed operations, adding to existing outages from Hurricane Laura and pandemic-related demand losses.
In addition to Sally, there are four other tropical cyclones – Paulette, Rene, Teddy and Vicky – swirling in the Atlantic Ocean basin, according to NHC. On Wednesday, Teddy became a hurricane with winds of 160 kmph and is predicted to reach up to a strength of Category 4, before closing in on Bermuda.