More Soaking Rains For Tampa Bay As Category 2 Hurricane Sally Approaches Gulf Coast
Slow-moving Sally, which strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane Monday, continues to threaten the northern Gulf Coast with flooding rains upon its projected landfall in next few days near Louisiana.
The greater Tampa Bay region is in for another wet, dreary day as tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Sally make its way through the Gulf of Mexico.
Periods of gusty winds, strong downpours and isolated flooding drenched the region on Sunday as Sally - which quickly strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane - continued to track northwest toward the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service say much of the same is expected on Monday, especially along coastal areas during the afternoon.
The greatest chance of soaking rain and localized flooding remains from Sarasota County to the south, forecasters said. Powerful thunderstorms may be limited as a thick cloud cover will keep temperatures down, but heavy rains are still possible.
According to forecasters with the National Hurricane Center, the outer bands of Sally could experience 1-3 inches of rain across the state, producing flash flooding in some areas and minor river flooding.
Tampa Bay can expect a return to the normal pattern afternoon showers and thunderstorms by Tuesday and lasting through the end of the week, forecasters said.
Meanwhile, tropical storm force wind gusts, heavy rain with the potential for flash flooding, and a storm surge of 1 to 3 feet are all possible in parts of the Florida Panhandle from Tropical Storm Sally beginning Monday.
Sally became a hurricane late Monday morning, and as of 5 p.m., became a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.
As of 5 p.m., Sally was located about 105 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River and has slowed down, moving west-northwest at just 6 mph, according to the hurricane center.
It continues to move toward southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with a projected landfall sometime Tuesday.
Sally’s slow movement means squally weather is likely to continue Wednesday and Thursday over the Florida Panhandle.
Storm Surge Warnings are in effect for a large portion of the Alabama, Mississippi, and southeast Louisiana coastlines, where several feet of surge are likely. The official surge forecast from the National Hurricane Center is projecting 1 to 3 feet of water above normally dry ground, particularly near Escambia Bay and near the Apalachicola and St. Marks River areas.
Other areas of generally minor coastal flooding are expected near the time of high tides, and for that reason, the National Weather Service issued Coastal Flood Advisories for much of the Panhandle and Big Bend coastline. High surf and dangerous rip currents are expected to pose a danger to swimmers, as well.
Rainfall amounts of 6 to 12 inches are anticipated along the coast from Apalachicola and westward through Thursday. Amounts of 2 to 5 inches are possible as far east as Marianna and Tallahassee. Flash Flood Watches are in effect, mainly from the Apalachicola River westward, including Marianna, Panama City, and Pensacola. Widespread flash flooding is possible, especially in the watch area.
The primary hazard, as it relates to Florida Panhandle, will be flooding. This could either be flash floods associated with sudden strong downpours, or develop over a longer period of time near coastlines and creeks due to persistent rain and higher water levels.
Hurricane center forecasters said the storm's slower movement will "exacerbate the storm surge and heavy rainfall threats" to Florida's Gulf Coast. The area at greatest risk for a multi-day flooding event is along the Emerald Coast from Destin to Pensacola, and locations inland to roughly the I-10 corridor.
Frequent updates on Tropical Storm Sally are available via the Florida Storms mobile app or social media accounts. Meteorologists from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network will also provide updates on Tropical Storm Sally through Florida's network of public radio and television stations.
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network meteorologist Ray Hawthorne contributed to this report.