Hurricane Sally uprooted trees, flooded streets and cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses on Wednesday as it brought what the United States’ National Hurricane Center (NHC) called “historic and catastrophic” flooding to the Alabama-Florida coast.
Sally, which made landfall early Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Alabama as a Category 2 storm, was downgraded in the afternoon to a tropical storm as maximum sustained winds dropped to 113km/h (70mph).
Some parts of the Gulf Coast had been inundated with more than 46cm (18 inches) of rain over the previous 24 hours, with more precipitation expected as the storm’s winds slow further, the NHC said.
Several residents along the Alabama and Florida coasts said damage from the slow-moving storm caught them off guard.
“Normally it goes away. But with this one it was first the anxiety of it coming and then when it finally came, it didn’t move,” said Preity Patel, 41, who has resided in a downtown Pensacola apartment for two years. “It was just constant rain and wind,” Patel said.
The coastal community of Pensacola, Florida, suffered up to 1.5m (five feet) of flooding, and travel was cut by damaged roads and bridges. More than 500,000 homes and businesses across the area were without power as the storm knocked over stately oak trees and tore power lines from poles.
A section of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, known also as the “Three Mile Bridge”, is missing a “significant section,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference.