What to Know
- Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center said Sally downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane early Tuesday morning
- Sally could produce rain totals up to 24 inches by the middle of the week, forecasters said
- Meanwhile, forecasters were keeping an eye on three other named systems in the Atlantic basin
Storm-weary Gulf Coast residents prepared for a new weather onslaught as Sally was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane early Tuesday morning.
Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sally was expected to reach shore later Tuesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions, including risk of flooding, to a region stretching from the western Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.
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Jeffrey Gagnard of Chalmette, Louisiana, spent Sunday in Mississippi helping his parents prepare their home for Sally — and making sure they safely evacuated ahead of the storm.
“I mean, after Katrina, anything around here and anything on the water, you’re going to take serious,” he said, as he loaded the back of his SUV with cases of bottled water in a grocery store parking lot in Waveland, Mississippi. “You can’t take anything lightly.”
Gagnard said he planned to head back across the state line to prepare his own home for winds and rain Sally was expected to bring to the New Orleans area.
“I know for a lot of people this storm seemed to come out of nowhere,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We need everybody to pay attention to this storm. Let’s take this one seriously.”
Edwards urged people to prepare for the storm immediately. He also said there are still many from southwestern Louisiana who evacuated from Hurricane Laura into New Orleans — exactly the area that could be hit by Sally, which is a slow-moving storm.
In Mandeville, a city about 35 miles north of New Orleans, resident Chris Yandle has purchased a week’s worth of groceries and moved all his patio furniture into his family’s house and shed in preparation for the storm.
“I’m mostly trying to stay calm — especially with a family of four and a dog to worry about,” Yandle said. “I’ve lived through many hurricanes growing up in Louisiana, but I haven’t felt this anxious about a hurricane in my life.”
Mississippi officials warned that the storm was expected to coincide with high tide, leading to significant storm surge.
“It needs to be understood by all of our friends in the coastal region and in south Mississippi that if you live in low-lying areas, the time to get out is early tomorrow morning,” Gov. Tate Reeves said late Sunday.
In Waveland, Mississippi, Joey Chauvin used rope to tie down a tall wooden post topped with a statue of a pelican serving as a marker at the driveway leading to his weekend camp. He said a matching pelican marker on the opposite side of the driveway was washed away in Tropical Storm Cristobal earlier this summer. That storm pushed more than 3 feet of water into the area.
“If this one hits the coast as a Cat 2, I’m thinking we’re gonna have at least six to seven feet of water where we’re standing at,” Chauvin said. “So, yeah, we’re definitely not going to stay.”
Late Monday, Sally was a Category 2 storm, and an advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami showed the system was moving west-northwest at 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.
However, by early Tuesday morning, the storm was downgraded to a Category 1 after maximum winds lowered to 90 mph. Sally could restrengthen throughout the day Tuesday, the Hurricane Center said.
The storm was located 115 miles south-southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi, moving west at only 3 mph. A slow west-northwestward motion is expected to resume later Tuesday morning, with the center of the hurricane moving near the coast of southeastern Louisiana later in the day, the National Hurricane Center said in it's advisory.
On the current track, the storm is forecast to reach land near the Alabama-Mississippi state line by late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
On Sunday, Florida’s Gulf Coast was battered with windy, wet weather. Pensacola, on Florida’s Panhandle, was bracing for 10 to 15 inches of rain.
Sally could produce rain totals up to 24 inches by the middle of the week, forecasters said.
“That system is forecast to bring not only damaging winds but a dangerous storm surge,” said Daniel Brown of the Hurricane Center. "Because it’s slowing down it could produce a tremendous amount of rainfall over the coming days.”
This isn’t the only storm in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic basin with four named systems as of Monday evening and an area of low pressure in the western Gulf of Mexico with a 10% chance of development as it slides south.
The newest storm, Vicky, formed with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph Monday morning. Forecasters said Vicky, the 20th named storm of the season, should be a short-lived tropical cyclone, as increasing southwesterly shear is expected to quickly weaken Vicky to a depression in a couple days, and the system is expected to degenerate to a remnant low Thursday.
Paulette gained hurricane status late Saturday and brought storm surge, coastal flooding and high winds to Bermuda on Monday, according to a U.S. National Hurricane Center advisory. Rene dissipated over the central Atlantic on Monday evening.
Tropical Depression Twenty became Tropical Storm Teddy early Monday morning and could strengthen into a powerful hurricane with no impact forecasted for the United States. Another system off the coast of Africa has a 40 percent chance of being named within the next five days.
It's the second time in historical records that five tropical cyclones ocurred at once in the Atlantic basin.
A mandatory evacuation has already been issued in Grand Isle, Louisiana, ahead of the storm. On Saturday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation order for Orleans Parish residents living outside of the parish’s levee protection system.
All northern Gulf Coast states are urging residents to prepare.
“It is likely that this storm system will be impacting Alabama’s Gulf Coast. While it is currently not being predicted as a direct hit to our coastal areas, we know well that we should not take the threat lightly,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. She urged residents to prepare and stay informed of the storm’s path in the coming days.
Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. AP journalists Julie Walker in New York, Haleluya Hadero in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Sudhin Thanawala in Roswell, Georgia, contributed to this report.