Rivers swollen by Hurricane Sally’s rains threatened more misery for parts of the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama on Thursday, even as the storm’s remnants were forecast to dump up to a foot of rain and spread the threat of flooding to Georgia and the Carolinas.
Sally weakened to a tropical depression late Wednesday and picked up speed. By early Thursday, it was producing torrential rains over eastern Alabama and western and central Georgia. Forecasters say tornadoes are possible Thursday across southern Georgia and northern Florida.
CBS News weather producer David Parkinson said, “We could see up to a half foot in spots throughout the day into early tomorrow.”
The National Weather Service said, “Heavy rain associated with Tropical Depression Sally will impact much of western South Carolina, central North Carolina and southeastern Virginia today and into tonight. Widespread flash flooding is anticipated, especially in the Carolinas.”
At least eight waterways in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were expected to hit major flood stage. Some of the crests could break records, submerge bridges and flood some homes, the National Weather Service warned. Included in the warnings were the Styx and Fish rivers, Murder Creek and Big Escambia Creek. In Florida, major crests were expected on the Perdido, Blackwater, Shoal and Yellow rivers, forecasters said.
Brewton, Alabama, a city of about 5,200, can expect moderate to major flooding, said meteorologist Steve Miller of the National Weather Service office in Mobile. Silverhill, a town of about 1,200, was threatened by the Fish River, which had crested, and Seminole, an Alabama village on the Florida state line, by the still rising Styx River, Miller said.
Coastal residents, meanwhile, looked to begin the recovery from a storm that turned streets into rivers, ripped roofs off buildings and killed at least one person.
More than 580,00 homes and businesses were without power overnight in Florida, Alabama, Louisian and Georgia, according to PowerOutageUS.
Many faced extended time without power. “We don’t want to sugar coat this; we’re in it for the long haul,” one utility posted on social media.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents and visitors in flooded areas that they would need to remain vigilant as water from the hurricane subsides, because heavy rains to the north were expected to cause flooding in Panhandle rivers in coming days.
“So this is kind of the initial salvo, but there is going to be more that you’re going to have to contend with,” DeSantis said.
At least one death was blamed on the hurricane. Orange Beach, Alabama, Mayor Tony Kennon told The Associated Press one person in the popular vacation spot died and another was missing as a result of the storm. He said he couldn’t immediately release details.
Sally blew ashore near Gulf Shores, Alabama, on Wednesday morning as a major hurricane with 105 mph winds. It moved extraordinarily slowly, exacerbating the heavy rains’ effects. More than 2 feet fell near Naval Air Station Pensacola, and nearly 3 feet of water covered streets in downtown Pensacola, the National Weather Service reported.
Some Pensacola streets looked like rivers with whitecaps at times. The waters swamped parked cars before receding.
A replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship the Nina was missing from where it was docked at the Pensacola waterfront, police said. The ship was later seen run aground in the city’s downtown, the Pensacola News Journal reported.
News outlets reported some trees were toppled in Georgia. In Clayton County, fire officials warned residents to avoid areas where power lines had fallen.
In Orange Beach, Kennon said the damage was worse than that from Hurricane Ivan, which hit 16 years to the day earlier. In a Facebook briefing, Kennon said distribution points would be established Thursday for water, ice and tarps.
“It was an unbelievably freaky right turn of a storm that none of us ever expected,” Kennon said of Sally, which once appeared to have New Orleans in its sights.
As a hurricane, Sally tore loose a barge-mounted construction crane, which then smashed into the new Three Mile Bridge over Pensacola Bay, causing a section of the year-old span to collapse, authorities said.
The storm also ripped away a large section of a fishing pier at Alabama’s Gulf State Park on the very day a ribbon-cutting had been scheduled following a $2.4 million renovation.