| USA TODAY
Tropical Storm Sally drenched parts of South Florida Sunday as it roared toward the northern Gulf Coast, where it’s forecast to make landfall Monday night with dangerous winds, life-threatening storm surge and flooding rain.
Sally is forecast to strengthen to a hurricane with winds up to 100 mph and higher gusts, but the National Hurricane Center shifted its track westward, farther away from the Florida Panhandle. Sally’s storm surge is forecast to raise water levels along the Gulf Coast from Chassahowitzka, Florida to Burns Point, Louisiana.
Sally’s maximum sustained winds are 60 mph and the storm continued to get better organized Sunday, despite battling some wind shear, the National Hurricane Center said. In northern Florida, a tropical storm warning is in effect for coastal areas of Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Bay, Gulf and Walton counties.
As the storm moved away from Florida’s southwest coast, the northern Gulf coast began feeling the impacts. At 2:30 p.m., a marine station south of St. George Island reported sustained winds of 39 mph.
At 8 p.m. Sunday, the center of Sally was about 160 miles south of Panama City, Florida and about 195 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
A flash flood watch is in effect for portions of the state’s Big Bend and western Panhandle as bands of heavy showers move over the coast.
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Sally is forecast to be a huge rainmaker along the northern Gulf Coast, with the hurricane center warning it could soak parts of the western Florida Panhandle, Mississippi and Louisiana with 6-12 inches of rain. The weather service said as much as 20 inches of rain could fall in isolated locations.
In Florida, a 1-3 foot peak storm surge is forecast from Chassahowitzka to Pensacola Bay.
The highest peak storm surge is forecast at 7-11 feet from the mouth of the Mississippi River eastward to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Lake Borgne, and 4 – 7 feet from Ocean Springs to the Alabama/Mississippi River and in Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.
Sally continued to soak parts of the Florida coast Sunday.
On the southwest coast, 8.45 inches of rain fell at the Marco Island Airport, the Weather Service said.
In southwest Miami, 5.98 inches of rain fell Sunday.
At St. James City, on a barrier island just west of Cape Coral, as of Sunday morning, 4.24 inches of rain fell over 24 hours. More than 1.5 inches of rain fell in Zephyrhills and Grove City. Fort Myers International Airport reported more than an inch of rain after midnight.
A gust of 50 mph was reported near Clearwater Beach Sunday morning and a gust of 56 mph in Long Boat Key.
In the Florida Keys, up to 12 inches of rain was reported between Saturday morning and Sunday morning and the rain continued to fall, prompting a flood advisory. Key West had reported a little more than 9 inches at midnight, the fifth highest-ever daily rainfall total. That included a one-hour total rainfall of 3.95 inches, roughly between 9-10 p.m.