Hurricane Sally has made landfall along the Gulf Coast in the United States, with forecasts of torrential rains that could provoke “historic” and potentially deadly flash floods.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Wednesday said the Category 2 storm hit Alabama at about 4:45am (09:45 GMT), bringing maximum sustained winds of about 165km (105 miles) an hour.
“Historic life-threatening flooding likely along portions of the northern Gulf coast,” the Miami-based centre warned late on Tuesday, adding the hurricane could dump up to 20 inches (500mm) of rain in some areas, causing dangerous flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi and inland in the days ahead.
About 150,000 homes and businesses in Alabama and Florida were already without power on Tuesday evening, according to the poweroutage.us website.
Videos posted to social media appeared to show some areas in the region had started to flood.
A curfew was called in the coastal Alabama city of Gulf Shores due to the life-threatening conditions.
Sally had been at a crawling pace of 4.8km (3 miles) an hour, but was expected to pick up speed through Wednesday.
“We are looking at record flooding, perhaps breaking historic levels. And with rising water comes a greater risk for loss of property and life,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told a news conference.
“I urge you in the strongest way possible to evacuate if conditions permit and seek shelter elsewhere as possible today.”
On Monday, Ivey had declared a state of emergency in the US state ahead of Sally’s arrival.
US President Donald Trump, speaking on the Fox and Friends show, compared Sally to Hurricane Laura, which battered Texas and Louisiana as well as the Caribbean only weeks ago.
“This one is smaller but it’s a little bit more direct, but we have it under control,” he said. “We have it under watch very strongly.”
At a hurricane shelter in Pascagoula, a coastal town in eastern Mississippi, 50-year-old evacuee Cliton Shepherd was hoping the area could avoid the worst.
“I don’t think the wind is going to hurt anything, hopefully. I pray that it doesn’t. But that’s the main thing, you know, hoping and praying for the best, that’s all we can do.”
There have been so many tropical storms in the Atlantic this year that the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, which names them, is about to run out of names for the second time in history.
The last time was in 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
The latest Atlantic storm, Hurricane Paulette, pounded the island of Bermuda on Monday with Category 2 winds and heavy rains, according to the NHC.
The centre also said Tropical Storm Teddy, currently located about 1,335km (
east of the Lesser Antilles, was expected to become a major hurricane later on Wednesday and could reach Category 4 strength on Thursday.