Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., as a Category 2 hurricane and moved through the Florida Panhandle, bringing flooding whilst it weakened to a tropical depression.
On Wednesday floodwaters rushed through the parts of Florida and Alabama, converting roads into rivers, submerging cars, and sending several out-of-control construction barges into waters along the Florida Panhandle as Hurricane Sally dumped a torrent of rain.
The surging water reached above five feet in Pensacola, Fla., and slammed a barge into a segment of the Pensacola Bay Bridge that was under construction, destroying a section of it, Sheriff David Morgan of Escambia County said.
In Florida County over 377 people were rescued from the flooding. The Pensacola area has already seen over two feet of rainfall from Sally, and meteorologists said that up to 35 inches of rain could fall in coastal communities.
Sally made landfall at around 5 a.m. CT over Gulf Shores, Ala., as a Category 2 hurricane and eventually weakened to a tropical depression after it flowed across the Florida Panhandle, but its deluge wasn’t forecast to lessen any time soon. As of 9:30 p.m. CT, the core of the storm was in southeastern Alabama, with its heavy rain extending into western Georgia and continuing to crawl northeast at about 9 miles per hour.
“Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding occurring over portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama” the National Hurricane Center warned.
Along with Pensacola, there are several barges that became loose and were floating out of control through the choppy waters, including one with a crane that was at one point heading toward the Escambia Bay Bridge.
Sheriff Morgan said that he had considered different ways to halt the barge when it was near the bridge, even getting permission to blow 40-millimeter grenades at it before determining that the acute step would be too dangerous and it may not work anyway. Fortunately, the barge ran ashore and never reached the bridge, he said.
With water and downed trees making roads impassable, and with still strong winds, residents were told it might take hours before emergency services were dispatched.
Over 377 people were rescued from flooded areas in Escambia County as of Wednesday afternoon, officials said, and one shelter had been opened to handle the crush of evacuees. Two rivers of the county are expected to overflow, resulting in more flooding.
Mayor Tony Kennon of Orange Beach, Ala., said that one person had died due to the storm and another was missing. Officials would perform minimal search-and-rescue operations in the dark due to dangerous conditions, including debris within the water, he said.