Hurricane Sally Makes Landfall Near Florida-Alabama Border, Batters Panhandle As Category 2 Storm
Hurricane Sally, with 105 mph winds, has already dumped more than a foot of rain on portions of the Florida Panhandle.
After losing some strength on Tuesday, Hurricane Sally made landfall early Wednesday morning as a powerful Category 2 hurricane near Gulf Shores, Ala. – just west of Pensacola - and bearing down on the Florida Panhandle.
Sally returned to Category 2 strength overnight with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph while dumping massive amounts of rain on the Florida Panhandle, with more to come.
Sally made landfall just before 6 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. It continues to inch on shore, moving north-northeast at just 3 mph.
According to Florida Public Radio Emergency Network meteorologist Ray Hawthorne, the storm has already dumped more than a foot of rain over portions of the Florida Panhandle. This slow movement will result in even more rain - perhaps as much as 30 inches in some areas - along with life-threatening flash flooding and possible tornadoes.
“I’m expecting another foot of rain today in the Destin, Fort Walton, and Pensacola areas as storm total amounts head toward 30 inches in that area,” Hawthorne said. “Pockets of flash flooding are possible as far east as Tallahassee. Isolated tornadoes are not out of the question as far east as the Big Bend coast and Northeast Florida (Wednesday) afternoon.”
A hurricane warning remains in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama border to the Okaloosa-Walton county line. A tropical storm warning extends east of Okaloosa-Walton to Indian Pass near Apalachicola.
Flash flood warnings continue over a large portion of the Florida Panhandle from Panama City westward. Rainfall estimates indicate between 1-2 feet of rain have already fallen, particularly south of Interstate 10 in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties. Upwards of a foot of rain has fallen in the Panama City area based on radar estimates.
Hawthorne said Sally will continue to produce occasional rain bands over Big Bend, Nature Coast and North Florida through Thursday as Sally weakens and pulls toward the Carolinas.
Conditions are expected to slowly improve Thursday night as the storm weakens and pulls away from the Gulf coast. However, torrential rain is also expected to impact the Carolinas on Thursday and Friday before the remnant of Sally finally merges with a cold front and moves into the Atlantic.
Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.