Flooding, power outages and bridge closures spread throughout coastal Alabama and Northwest Florida Tuesday night as Hurricane Sally battered the region.
More than 29,000 homes and businesses were without power in Alabama as of about 7:15 CDT, most of them in Mobile and Baldwin counties, according to poweroutage.us. About 14,000 outages were being reported in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the Florida Panhandle.
Several bridges and roadways were shut down including the Alabama Point Bridge and the Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile. In Baldwin County, the HWY 59 bridge, Foley Beach Express toll bridge and Perdido Pass all closed, cutting off access to beach communities until the storm passes.
“If you are on the island, you will not be able to get off the island until the bridges reopen,” the county’s emergency management agency said on Twitter.
(MORE: The Latest Forecast for Hurricane Sally)
In Florida, the Garcon Point Bridge was closed after the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office recorded a wind gust of 40 mph. Sections of U.S. HWY 98, including the bridge that crosses the state line, were closed in both Florida and Alabama.
Curfews were put into place in the Alabama communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Photos and video posted to social media showed flooding along the Alabama coast Tuesday night.
Hundreds of thousands hunkered down in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida as Sally edged toward landfall.
Barges and casino boats tore loose from their moorings and floodwaters made travel difficult in many coastal communities.
Evacuations were ordered in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and officials in Alabama and Florida urged residents to evacuate voluntarily, especially those living in low-lying areas prone to flooding.
“This is going to be historic flooding along with the historic rainfall,” Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist with the National Hurricane Center, told the Associated Press. “If people live near rivers, small streams and creeks, they need to evacuate and go somewhere else.”
The U.S. Postal Service suspended service Tuesday at 60 locations in Alabama, and Walmart announced it was closing more than 50 stores until the storm passed.
Airlines, including Southwest, Delta and United have waived fees for passengers who need to change their flights because of Hurricane Sally. Southwest canceled flights at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans through Wednesday afternoon, nola.com reported.
Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this week declared a state of emergency in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. On Tuesday afternoon, he added Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Walton and Washington to the declaration.
Sally was causing flooding and street closings in Florida’s Panhandle Tuesday.
The Pensacola Police Department announced the Pensacola Bay Bridge, also called the Three-Mile Bridge, that links Pensacola to the city of Gulf Breeze was closed because winds had reached 39 mph. Police Department spokesman Mike Wood also said a construction barge also has broken loose from its moorings and became stuck under the bridge, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
The city of Gulf Breeze tweeted that the Bay Bridge would remain closed until Hurricane Sally had passed and state Transportation Department officials could examine the bridge. The Lillian Bridge on U.S. 98 over Perdido Bay to Alabama and the Theo Baars Bridge to Perdido Key also closed.
Firefighters left Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key for the mainland Tuesday morning, the Pensacola News Journal reported. Escambia County officials said sheriff’s deputies would remain on the beaches to respond to calls for service as long as it was safe.
Many areas of Pensacola Beach were flooded and water rose to the edge of Pensacola Beach Boulevard.
South Garcon Point Road at Katie Street was closed in Santa Rosa County because of the weather. Street flooding also was reported in Okaloosa County.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the Florida Panhandle.
Voluntary evacuations were issued for parts of Escambia County, including Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach. The Pensacola Bay Center was being opened as a shelter.
Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa county schools were closed Tuesday and planned to remain closed Wednesday because of Sally.
The University of West Florida announced all of its in-person classes are either going fully remote or are canceled from noon Monday through Tuesday. Pensacola State College also closed Monday.
Pensacola International Airport closed Monday and will remain closed until weather conditions improve and allow for safe operation.
Conditions were worsening Tuesday in Orange Beach. The Police Department said storm surge flooding had washed over several roads, and officials urged residents to stay home.
Flooding started Monday on Dauphin Island, where emergency officials had to pick up about a dozen people stranded as sand and ocean water began to inundate the western part of the island.
Mayor Jeff Collier said emergency officials drove a Humvee to pick up 12 to 15 people, including an infant, the AP reported. At least four cars were lost.
“We weren’t able to move the vehicles, they were already stuck in the sand,” Collier said.
Tuesday morning, Collier said the island lost power about 5:15 a.m.
Collier also confirmed the causeway to the island closed Tuesday morning, WALA-TV reported.
In Bayou La Batre, at least two casino boats broke free from their moorings and smashed into docks, according to video shared on social media.
Terry Downey, mayor of Bayou La Batre, told WALA Monday also was a hectic day.
“We’ve handed out more sandbags today than we’ve ever handed out. We had a dump truck and almost two dump truckloads of sand,” Downey said.
“We’re ready just hope this thing comes on and goes away,” he said.
On the other side of Mobile Bay in Baldwin County, voluntary evacuations were urged in communities along the Gulf of Mexico like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, as well as vulnerable inland areas.
“I think that it’s very important that people really pay close attention to this system and not focus on what category of storm that it may be,” Jenni Guerry, deputy director of emergency management in Baldwin County, told weather.com in a phone interview. “Each and every storm is very unique and we are expecting some very significant, historical flooding and rainfall amounts with this system.”
Up to 24 inches of rain could fall in some parts of the county, according to the National Hurricane Center. Guerry said winds, high waves and storm surge are also concerns.
“Those are conditions that are extremely serious and we want to make sure that people take the measures to make sure that they keep themselves and their family safe,” Guerry said.
The county opened a shelter but officials said it should only be used as a “last resort,” according to AL.com. Two shelters opened in Mobile County.
At a briefing Tuesday, Mobile’s Mayor Sandy Stimpson said Hurricane Sally’s slow forward progress and heavy rains would saturate the ground and make the city’s trees less stable and more vulnerable to Sally’s high winds, AL.com reported.
If that happens, “The damage is going to be unbelievable as far as uprooting trees,” Stimpson said. “That’s my biggest fear, the tree damage we could have.”
Many school districts, including public schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties, canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mobile Regional Airport canceled commercial flights on Tuesday.
“I urge everyone in the coastal areas south of I-10 and in low-lying areas to take all precautions and heed advice from weather experts and local officials. Please stay vigilant, Alabama,” Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday morning.
Even in Montgomery, which is almost 140 miles inland, city officials offered sandbags to residents to prepare for potential flooding from Sally.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission ordered the 12 casinos in the state to close Monday evening.
Evacuation shelters opened in Jackson, Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River, George and Stone counties. The Mississippi State Medical Needs Shelter in Stone County opened.
(MORE: Full List of Evacuation Orders Ahead of Sally)
Hancock County Emergency Management issued a mandatory evacuation “for all low lying areas, residents living on rivers, river inlets, bayous, creeks and in travel trailers.” Also, modular homes, mobile homes, homes under construction and/or partially constructed homes were under evacuation orders.
Harrison County ordered mandatory evacuations “south of the Harrison County Sand Beach sea wall, including the 26 miles of Harrison County Sand Beach, as well as low-lying areas” in the county. The city of Long Beach issued a voluntary evacuation for a one-block area off of Highway 90.
Rupert Lacy, Harrison County emergency management director, said U.S. Highway 90 will become impassable and water will back up into the Bay of Biloxi, Bay of St. Louis and area rivers, lakes and low-lying areas, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported.
(WATCH: Why Slow-Moving Tropical Systems Are the Worst)
Jackson County asked residents in low-lying areas to evacuate voluntarily. The request applied to people who live along rivers, river inlets, bayous, creeks, and in travel trailers, modular homes, mobile homes and homes under construction.
More than a dozen school districts along the coast remained closed Tuesday.
Officials in Pascagoula, Long Beach, Gulfport, Pass Christian and Biloxi told boat owners to move their vessels out of city marinas and harbors, WLOX-TV reported.
Even though Hurricane Sally’s projected path shifted toward the east, Louisiana officials urged residents to remain vigilant.
In St. Bernard Parish, parish President Guy McInnis said water was pooling on roadways in low-lying areas, WVUE-TV reported. He said the call for voluntary evacuations would remain in place for now.
“We’ve, you know, been through this with Katrina 15 years ago, and when that storm sits there and it’s slow-moving, it just continues to bring water into our lower-lying community,” McInnis said. “Right now, we’re getting that northeast wind. … We’re still going to feel the effects all throughout today.”
The surge overtook some of the parish’s levee system, causing at least one highway to be shut down.
The parishes of St. Charles and St. John the Baptist lifted evacuation orders. Plaquemines Parish lifted the mandatory evacuation order for the West Bank, but the order remained in place for the East Bank.
Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place in New Orleans for residents living outside of the parish’s levee protection system: Venetian Isle, Irish Bayou and Lake Catherine.
The town of Grand Isle, Louisiana, on a tiny barrier island in the Gulf, also was under a mandatory evacuation order.
Mandatory evacuations also were ordered in the Jean Lafitte area of Jefferson Parish, too, including Barataria and Crown Point, and in parts of Lafourche Parish.
All public schools in at least eight parishes were closed Tuesday, as were many Catholic schools. Xavier and Loyola universities canceled Tuesday classes.
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