Sally is the fourth hurricane to land in the United States this year after Hanna, Isaiah and Laura – the most hit by the same date in 16 years.
It was downgraded to a tropical storm after falling and then further weakened to a tropical depression on Wednesday night. But despite losing strength, flooding remained a concern as it soaked southeast Alabama and central Georgia on Thursday. From there, it̵
Wherever it goes, catastrophic floods are expected to be released.
Florida sees four months of rain in four hours
While Sally has been weakened since landing, its destruction will be felt in various states. At least eight rivers in southwestern Alabama and the western area of the Florida Panhandle are expected to reach major flood phases.
“We had 30 inches of rain in Pensacola – 30 plus inches of rain – which is four months of rain in four hours,” said Ginny Cranor, head of the Pensacola Fire Department.
Forecasts say there is a total of 10 to 35 inches of rainfall from Mobile Bay to Tallahassee, Florida.
In Pensacola and other parts of Florida, where rivers approached dangerous levels, and downed trees and power lines made roads dangerous, counties set up curfews to keep residents safe.
Escambia County, which includes Pensacola, asked residents to stay home so crews can evaluate roads and bridges. Local law enforcement is enforcing the curfew for three nights from Wednesday.
“We are still on an evaluation and lifesaving recovery mission and we need to be able to do that job,” said County Commissioner Robert Bender. “We are still evaluating our roads and bridges to make sure it is safe.”
Crews rescued 377 people near the state border with Alabama and feared many more could be in danger in the coming days, said Jason Rogers, the county’s director of public safety.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the danger is far from over, warning “virtually any body of water in northwest Florida” could see an increase in levels over the next few days because of Sally.
“There’s going to be a lot, a lot of property damage,” he added. “When you see the center of Pensacola, you see three meters of water there, it’s likely to affect any business that’s in the center of Pensacola – there’s just no two ways by that.”
Alabama warned to be vigilant
In Gulf Shores, near where the hurricane landed, Doris Stiers assessed the damage outside her beach house. She was stunned.
“Looks like a war zone,” she told CNN. “Lots of devastation, ruined homes, take away. I have had no service, power or internet. Bad night.”
Orange Wilson resident Matt Wilson, who rode the storm at home, said it was scary.
Alabama officials warned that even if the storm is weakened, residents should not let their guard fail.
“The storm may have left our local area, but it is important to be aware as many areas are still affected by prolonged floodwaters,” the National Weather Service in Mobile tweeted.
What’s next about Florida and Alabama?
Sally has been downgraded to a tropical depression with sustained winds of approx. 35 mph. Precipitation remains a significant threat, and its risks are not limited to Florida and Alabama.
Mandatory evacuation was ordered for large parts of the coast and low-lying areas from the Mississippi to Florida, and shelters were opened to accommodate evacuees.
Southeast Alabama and central Georgia could see 4 to 12 inches of rain, with significant flooding possible. Parts of South Carolina are expected to receive 4 to 10 inches of rain, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.
West to central North Carolina and far southeast Virginia could see up to 8 inches in isolated areas, he added.
“We’ve already seen significant flooding in parts of Alabama from this rainbow. Remember, turn around, don’t drink,” the National Weather Service in Atlanta tweeted.
In addition to the rain, there is a small risk of severe weather throughout Sally’s road with possible isolated tornadoes, ”said Shackelford.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Jason Hanna and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.