Hurricane Sally moved slowly closer to the US Gulf Coast on Tuesday, threatening historic floods as rain and storm-force winds started lashing the shore, and governors of four states urged people to flee the coastline.
Sally could hit the Alabama, Florida and Mississippi coasts on Tuesday night or early Wednesday causing massive flash flooding and storm surges of up to 7 feet (2 meters) in some spots, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
Its languid pace recalls 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which dumped several feet of rain over a period of days on the Houston area, causing major damage.
More than 2 feet of rain was expected in some areas, with “extreme life-threatening flash flooding likely through Wednesday”, an NHC forecaster said.
While Sally’s winds decreased to 80mph at 7pm (midnight GMT), it was moving at a glacial pace of 2mph. Sally was 75 miles (135km) south of Mobile, Alabama, and spreading tropical storm-force winds onshore, the NHC said.
“We’re staying in good spirits. We’re going to ride it out,” said Jennie Bonfiglio, manager of the 1862 Malaga Inn in Mobile’s downtown historic district.
About half the 38 rooms had guests, and the hotel was stocked with flashlights, batteries, bottled water and canned food, she said.
“The wind has definitely picked up and some of the streets are starting to flood. I definitely wouldn’t go outside unless you had to.”