Hurricane Sally churned into the Florida Panhandle Thursday, taking a shellacking from destructive forces including offshore winds and flash flooding, as the hurricane extended a path of life-threatening Category 3 storm winds at one point.
The tropical storm’s center passed far from the key tourist destination of Panama City, but it churned near the coast of Grand Isle, pounding the coast with torrential rain from Nate. On the Alabama state line, some crews used dump trucks to evacuate people from rivers.
Tropical Storm Irma slammed Florida’s Gulf Coast Monday, Sept. 10, unleashing an onslaught of wind, rain and battering waves that flooded beachside neighborhoods and left more than 2,700 people without power. The impact was similar Thursday as Sally arrived just off the coast from Panama City.
Sally, with sustained winds of 85 mph, roared up the central Atlantic in just three days. It was forecast to drop as much as 15 inches (37 centimeters) of rain on coastal coastal Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.“The storm surge is more than expected,” said meteorologist Benjamin Williams of the National Hurricane Center. “There’s going to be a significant surge of water in all areas of the Panhandle.”
The storm was forecast to move away from the central U.S. Thursday evening, with winds beginning to diminish and 10 mph (16 kph) gusts still expected.
About 1,400 people were still living in shelters in Panama City, but additional shelters were coming on line, according to sheriff spokeswoman Joelle Bruder.
The storm hit close to Panama City Beach, a popular destination for families and beachgoers, shattering windows and blowing sand into driveways, Grady and Shell County Sheriff Jim Slump said.
While a few businesses were among the many destroyed, many people rescued by wind were able to leave their homes.
Mayor Alvin Brown, in a CNN interview from Panama City Beach, said the city was hosting about 1,800 people with health benefits who had been living under tents. The mayor said the city plans to request additional shelters.
The winds were calm Thursday afternoon, with showers and thunderstorms moving through Florida and Alabama. If the storms break down, residents are encouraged to leave quickly.“We do need to evacuate,” Brown said. “We’re going to have strong winds, heavy rain, right now, so if you’re in that area, go leave now.”