By WILLIAM MANSELL and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, just before 6 a.m. ET Wednesday as a dangerous Category 2 storm, and is now slamming the Gulf Coast with torrential rain and life-threatening flooding.
Sally, now weakened to a Category 1, is crawling north-northeast at 5 mph, near the Alabama-Florida border.
Even though Sally is weakening in terms of wind speed, the torrential rainfall is extremely dangerous, falling at 4 inches per hour in parts of Alabama and Florida.
Parts of western Florida and the southeastern Alabama coast are under flash flood emergencies through the evening.
Officials in Baldwin County, Alabama, reported “major to catastrophic flooding,” urging residents to stay off the roads.
In Florida’s Santa Rosa County, officials reported downed trees and power lines and said emergency crews were “only responding to high water calls due to the high wind and the excessive rain.”
Escambia County, Florida, is facing massive flooding due to the historic rainfall, local officials said. Water rescue operations are ongoing there as residents in about 300 homes did not evacuate, officials said.
In Pensacola in Escambia County, where wind gusts reached 92 mph, the flooding is extremely dangerous.
Downtown Pensacola is submerged under at least 3 to 4 feet of water while storm surge in the area climbed to 5.6 feet.
“Flooded roadways and intersections, along with hazardous debris in roadways (locations), have become too numerous to list,” the Pensacola Police Department said. “Please stay off the roadways now.”
Sally has even destroyed a Pensacola bridge; local authorities posted this photo showing the missing section.
The slow-moving storm forced some Alabama first responders to stay indoors — the Orange Beach Police Department said it could no longer respond to calls.
“Present conditions are preventing us from answering calls at this time. Please take all measures to be as safe as possible,” the department tweeted. “If you have the option to move to higher ground do so now.”
Power outages have impacted more than 278,000 customers in Alabama, 225,000 customers in Florida and 3,000 customers in Mississippi.
Hurricane Sally’s latest path shows the storm tracking northeast. After Wednesday, remnants of Sally will continue to inch inland toward Atlanta, where up to a foot of rain is possible.
Heavy rain will even spread into South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Virginia, where some areas could see up to 6 inches of rain. Flash flooding is expected there Friday.
This storm has also resulted in several tornado warnings, though no tornadoes have been confirmed yet. A tornado watch was issued for parts of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama until 7 p.m. ET.
Sally is the eighth continental U.S. named storm to make landfall in 2020. The other named storms to make landfall in 2020 so far have been: Bertha, Cristobal, Fay, Hanna, Isaias, Laura and Marco.
Sally’s landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama, comes 16 years to the day after Hurricane Ivan made landfall in Gulf Shores as a Category 3 storm.
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