Hurricane Sally to bring 'historic, life-threatening flash flooding' on Gulf Coast as residents urged to flee

HURRICANE Sally is forecast to bring "historic, life-threatening flash flooding" to the Gulf Coast as the slow-moving Category 1 heads north.

Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana have all declared states of emergency as more than 17million people lie in the path of the hurricane – and residents have been urged to flee if possible.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Sally was slowly "inching its way" north and was located roughly 60 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The National Hurricane Center said Sally has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and was moving at roughly two mph.

The storm is expected to reach land near the Mississippi-Alabama state line by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, according to forecasters.

With the storm's arrival is the threat of a wild storm surge of up to seven feet along the Gulf Coast.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John De Block told reporters on Tuesday: “A saying the National Weather Service has is, 'Hide from the wind, run from the water.'

“Now is the time to run from the water.”

Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University, said: “It’s going to be a huge rainmaker. It’s not going to be pretty.”

The hurricane’s slow movement has not only delayed its landfall, but also worsened the threat of heavy rain and storm surge.

Sally remained a dangerous storm Tuesday even after losing power, its fiercest winds having dropped considerably from a peak of 100 mph on Monday.

By late morning Tuesday, hurricane warnings stretched from east of Bay St Louis, Mississippi, to Navarre, Florida.

Rainfall of up to 20 inches was forecast near the coast – and there was a chance the storm could also spawn tornadoes and dump isolated rain accumulations of 30 inches.

Andrew Gilich, mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi, told CBS News his main concern is the storm surge: "We're hearing, of course, it's changing almost every hour, seven to 11 feet of storm surge. That's what kills people."

The flood gates in New Orleans have closed as the city braces for the surge, and the National Hurricane Center predicts the surge will be deadly.

"An extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm surge is expected", the National Hurricane Center said.

"Tropical storm conditions are likely to begin this evening in these areas and preparations should be rushed to completion. Life-threatening flash flooding is likely."

Main Street on Dauphin Island, Alabama, is already underwater, and cars are stuck in the sand.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey urged residents near Mobile Bay and low-lying areas near rivers to evacuate if they could safely.

“This is not worth risking your life,” Ivey said during a news conference on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump called Hurricane Sally on Monday "extremely dangerous."

"My team and I are closely monitoring extremely dangerous Hurricane Sally," he tweeted.

"We are fully engaged with State & Local Leaders to assist the great people of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Be ready and listen to State and Local Leaders!"

The president also issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis declared an emergency in 13 counties as rain from Sally’s outer bands hit the Panhandle on Tuesday.

Sally is just one of four storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic.

"This is the real deal, and it deserves your attention," Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter shortly after the storm was upgraded.

He urged people in low-lying areas to prepare to evacuate.

"Be smart. Prepare for worst. Pray for the best," he said.

Donald Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Louisiana, said Sally could unleash flooding similar to what Hurricane Harvey did in 2017 when it swamped the Houston area.

Damage from Sally is expected to reach $2billion to $3billion, but could exceed that if the storm's heaviest rainfall happens over land instead of in the Gulf, Chuck Watson of Enki Research, which models and tracks tropical storms, said.

Sally is the 18th named storm in the Atlantic this year and will be the eighth tropical storm of hurricane strength to hit the United States – something "very rare if not a record," said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, noting that accurate data on historic tropical storms can be elusive.

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