Hurricane Sally has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but the storm has drenched much of the Gulf Coast in Florida and Alabama. Some spots, like Pensacola, Fla., were hit with more than 30 inches of rain in four hours. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi
Hurricane Sally lumbered ashore near the Florida-Alabama line Wednesday with 105 mph (165) winds and rain measured in feet, not inches, swamping homes and trapping people in high water as it crept inland for what could be a long, slow and disastrous drenching across the Deep South.
Moving at an agonizing 3 mph, or about as fast as a person can walk, the storm made landfall at 4:45 a.m. near Gulf Shores, Alabama, after battering for hours a stretch of coastline that includes Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.
Flash floods pushed water into homes in Alabama and Florida, and officials in Pensacola and surrounding Escambia County, with a combined population of about 320,000, urged residents to stick to text messages for contacting family and friends to keep cellphone service open for 911 calls.
More than 2 feet of rain (61 centimeters) was recorded near Naval Air Station Pensacola, and nearly 3 feet (1 meter) of water covered streets in downtown Pensacola, the National Weather Service reported.
“It’s not common that you start measuring rainfall in feet,” said National Weather Service forecaster David Eversole in Mobile, Alabama. “Sally’s moving so slowly, so it just keeps pounding and pounding and pounding the area with tropical rain and just powerful winds. It’s just a nightmare.”
It was the second hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in less than three weeks and the latest blow in one of the busiest hurricane seasons ever recorded, so frenetic that forecasters have nearly run through the alphabet of storm names with 2 1/2 months still to go. At the start of the week, Sally was one of a record-tying five storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic, strung out like charms on a bracelet.
Like the wildfires raging on the West Coast, the onslaught of hurricanes has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing slower, rainier, more powerful and more destructive storms.
In Orange Beach, Alabama, winds blew out walls in one corner of a condominium building, exposing the interiors of condos on at least five floors, video posted online showed. Other images showed buildings with roof damage and stranded boats shoved onshore by storm surge.
At least 50 people in Orange Beach were rescued from flooded homes and taken to shelters, Mayor Tony Kennon said.
“We got a few people that we just haven’t been able to get to because the water is so high,” Kennon said. “But they are safe in their home, as soon as the water recedes, we will rescue them.”
Street lights were knocked out in downtown Mobile, a city of about 190,000, where a stoplight snapped, swinging wildly on its cable. Trees were bent over as the rain blew sideways in the howling wind. In downtown Pensacola, car alarms went off, the flashing lights illuminating the floodwaters surrounding parked cars.
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