Tropical Storm Sally lashes Alabama and Florida

45 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
8:08 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Pensacola fire chief describes flooding in her city: "Four months of rain in four hours"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Trent Airhart wades through floodwaters on Wednesday in downtown Pensacola.
Trent Airhart wades through floodwaters on Wednesday in downtown Pensacola. Gerald Herbert/AP

Pensacola Fire Chief Ginny Cranor said her city was inundated with water. 

“We had 30 inches of rain in Pensacola — 30 plus inches of rain — which is four months of rain in four hours at some point,” Cranor said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Cranor said a portion of Pensacola’s Three Mile Bridge sustained significant damage during the storm. Work on the bridge is “just being completed,” she said and “unfortunately I'm hearing now that this bridge may be closed for a month or more.”

“A crane fell into the bridge, we had a few barges that came loose and also ran into the bottom of the bridge, so we'll have major repairs on the bridge and also some structural engineering work that will need to take place before it opens again,” she explained.

Cranor said rescue teams are moving from response mode to recovery mode, as tonight’s curfew gets underway. 

“There's a lot of electrical hazards, a lot of hazards just with the instability of the roads, so we need people to stay off the roads and give us these three days to recover and assess the damage,” she said.

WATCH:

5:42 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

More than half a million without power from Sally

CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin

Power outages continue to rise as Sally moves away from the Gulf Coast.

More than 550,000 customers are without power across the southeast as of Wednesday evening.

Many of those outages are in Lower Alabama, where Alabama Power reports significant damage to its energy grid.

More than half of Gulf Power's customers are without power in the Florida Panhandle. Tree limbs and branches are among the leading causes of outages, making the loss of electricity a real possibility for those living well inland, too.

Sally moving north and spreading its tropical rains, winds and tornado threat to Georgia and the Carolinas are the perfect ingredients for residents to be left in the dark at some point over the next 24 hours.

Electric utility companies in Sally's path say additional resources have been secured to get power restored safely and as quickly as possible following the storm.

5:58 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Here's a look at the flooding from Sally

A business owner looks out at a flooded street in Pensacola, Florida, on Sept. 16.
A business owner looks out at a flooded street in Pensacola, Florida, on Sept. 16. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Sally brought heavy rain, strong winds and flooding as it moved across Alabama and the Florida Panhandle today.

This is what the flooding looked like along the Gulf Coast:

Alabama

A boat is washed up near a road after the storm moved through Orange Beach, Alabama, on Sept. 16.
A boat is washed up near a road after the storm moved through Orange Beach, Alabama, on Sept. 16. Gerald Herbert/AP

Florida

A man walks through a flooded street in downtown Pensacola, Florida, on Sept. 16.
A man walks through a flooded street in downtown Pensacola, Florida, on Sept. 16. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Vehicles parked on a flooded street as Sally passes through Pensacola, Florida, on Sept. 16.
Vehicles parked on a flooded street as Sally passes through Pensacola, Florida, on Sept. 16. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

5:40 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Roughly 600 search and rescue missions have been conducted in Florida

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said “nearly 600 search and rescue missions have been conducted with local sheriff's offices in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa” counties in western Florida.

Speaking during a news conference on Wednesday, DeSantis said “we've activated 500 Florida National Guard soldiers.”

DeSantis urged residents to stay home and stay out of the water, “people should be very, very careful. It is hazardous.” 

“Do not try to go out in there, there could be power lines down in the water. Don't try to drive your car through it. It's something that you could very much regret," the governor said.

There are more than 130,000 power outages reported in Escambia County alone, DeSantis said. Now that high winds from Sally have subsided, utility crews are working to restore power as quickly as possible.

Many bridges were closed today: At Three Mile Bridge in Pensacola, there is a “significant section missing,” and bridge inspection crews are assessing the damage.

“Obviously we want to get the bridges open as soon as possible, but we want to make sure that that is done in a safe manner,” DeSantis said. 

DeSantis will go to Pensacola tomorrow to do an aerial tour and survey the damage, he said. 

5:06 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Another named storm in the Gulf is possible

CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin

An area of disturbed weather in the western Gulf of Mexico could soon form.

The National Hurricane Center gives it a 70% chance of development over the next five days. 

It needs to be watched closely, as models differ on where this potential system will move.

However, models are keen on taking it north and impacting the northern Gulf Coast states a week from today. Another named storm is the last thing people recovering from Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Laura want to see on the horizon. 

At this time, the forecast keeps it below hurricane status. 

NHC gives another area a 70% chance for development, as well. 

It's located in the eastern Atlantic and is expected to move due west.

The first to develop will receive the name Wilfred — the last name on the 2020 list. The Greek alphabet will then be needed to finish out the rest of this record-setting hurricane season.

5:19 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

At least 377 people in Florida have been rescued during the storm

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Jason Rogers, the Escambia County Public Safety Director.
Jason Rogers, the Escambia County Public Safety Director. Escambia County Emergency Management

At least 377 people have been rescued in Escambia County, Florida, due to flooding from Sally, said Jason Rogers, director of the county's public safety agency.

During a news conference Wednesday, Rogers said emergency crews have “responded to over 200 calls for service.” 

A dusk-to-dawn curfew is in effect for the next three days, Rogers said. Additionally, schools are closed for remainder of the week. 

Escambia is Florida’s western most county, bordering with Alabama.  

4:31 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Florida sheriff: If you must drive on flooded streets, make it a no wake zone

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office in Florida tweeted footage of a car driving through a flooded street in the wake of Sally.

The department urged residents to drive slowly through the waters to avoid creating a wake zone in the streets.

Here's the warning:

4:07 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

There was a 12-foot alligator spotted in the Alabama storm surge

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Courtesy Tina Lambert Bennett
Courtesy Tina Lambert Bennett

Storm surge following a hurricane is its own risk — but Gulf Shores, Alabama, resident Tina Lambert Bennett spotted extra danger in the surge when she discovered a "giant" alligator in the water following Sally.

"I went upstairs to survey the damage to our property as well as the neighbors boat dock I happened to look down and see this giant in our yard," she told CNN.

She said alligators are common in the area, but at 11 or 12 feet long, this one was extra large.

"We are aware that we have them out in our area as well as lots of poisonous snakes so we know not to walk out there in floodwaters. I was just amazed at the size of this one," she said.

Bennett said Sally, which hit early this morning as a Category 2 hurricane, first brought strong winds to the area — and then the wildlife.

"Last night it hit us from the land side so strong winds tore part of our roof off and caused power outages and other damages. It also caused the surrounding canals to overflow and fill the marshlands. Today the tide came in off the bay side with the surge and the water rose so quickly from that side. That’s when our property became submerged and snakes and alligators began looking for a place to hunker down," she said.

4:05 p.m. ET, September 16, 2020

Alabama official says slow-moving storm wreaks havoc in Baldwin County

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

The “catastrophic” and slow-moving hurricane has wreaked havoc on the community, said Zach Hood, director of the Baldwin County, Alabama, Office of Emergency Management. 

“The biggest thing that was catastrophic for us was how slow hurricane Sally moved across our community. It was at an extremely slow pace, and it had very devastating consequences,” Hood told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. 

“This was a very devastating Category 2 hurricane for our community,” Hood said. 

Baldwin County is one of the two coastal counties in the state. It is sandwiched between Mobile to the west and the Florida border to the east.

"To give you an extent of the flooding in this county, most of our major river, and waterway systems will reach a historic total, in terms of record flooding,” Hood said. “This has been predicted for the last about 48 hours, and in fact the weather service used terms — historic rain event, historic flood event — and indeed, that is what we have here today.”

“We're trying to get rescue crews into areas that were heavily impacted from the devastating wind, and most importantly the rain that we are still experiencing now, as the day moves into this evening,” he said.  

A tweet by Baldwin County Office of Emergency Management said, “We don’t want to sugar coat this; we’re in it for the long haul.”

The tweet warns of “prolonged, extensive [power] outages.”