Hurricane Sally has invaded the US Gulf Coast, predicting torrential rains that could cause “historic” and potentially deadly flash floods.
The National Hurricane Center said the Category 2 storm early Wednesday in Gulf Shores, Alabama, caused maximum sustained winds of about 165 miles per hour.
The hurricane poses the risk of “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” along parts of the northern Gulf Coast, the Miami-based center had warned late Tuesday, adding that it could pour up to 500mm of rain in some areas.
According to the Weather Channel, about 75,000 homes in Alabama and Florida were already without power Tuesday night, and videos posted on social media seemed to show that some areas were starting to flood.
Hurricane Sally had made a crawl rate of about two miles per hour, but was expected to accelerate until Wednesday.
“We’re looking at record flooding, perhaps breaking historical levels. And with rising water there is a greater risk of property and life loss,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told a news conference.
“I urge you to evacuate as strongly as conditions permit and seek shelter elsewhere today.”
Governor Ivey had declared a state of emergency on Monday before Hurricane Sally arrived.
Speaking on Fox News, President Donald Trump compared Sally to Hurricane Laura, which ravaged Texas, Louisiana, and the Caribbean just a few weeks ago.
“This one is smaller, but a little more direct, but we have it under control,” he said.
“We are very aware of it.”
Earlier, he tweeted, “We are fully engaged with state and local leaders to help the wonderful people of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.”
Mr Trump urged the people on the path of the storm to “listen to state and local leaders.”
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves had also declared a state of emergency in the run-up to the oncoming storm.
He said the storm surge barrier projections were “alarming with somewhere between five and eight feet of coastal wave.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, which is still recovering after Hurricane Laura made landfall in the state as a Category 4 storm, told residents Monday to be prepared.
“Be smart and be safe,” he tweeted.
At a hurricane stay in Pascagoula, a coastal town in eastern Mississippi, 50-year-old evacuee Cliton Shepherd hoped the area could avoid the worst.
‘I don’t think the wind will hopefully do anything. I pray it doesn’t hurt, ”he said.
“But that’s the main thing, you know, hope and pray for the best, that’s all we can do.”
There have been so many tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean this year that the UN World Meteorological Organization, which names the storms, is running out of names for the second time in history.
The last time was in 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
According to the NHC, the latest Atlantic storm, Hurricane Paulette, hit the island of Bermuda Monday with Category 2 winds and heavy rains.
The center also said Tropical Storm Teddy, currently positioned in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, was expected to turn into a hurricane.