More of Florida’s Panhandle was put under a state of emergency Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a meandering Hurricane Sally finally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, just 35 miles from Pensacola. The storm’s heavy rains and Category 2 winds continue to threaten the Gulf Coast, as Pensacola Naval Air Station recorded the highest total rainfall with 24 inches and wind speeds as high as 92 miles per hour.
Pensacola could see as much as 35 inches of rain through Wednesday as the storm eventually shifts back to the northeast and rain bands continue to hammer northwest Florida.
With the National Hurricane Center forecasting “historic life-threatening flooding” in some areas, DeSantis added Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Walton, and Washington counties to an emergency order.
Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were put under the order Monday afternoon. DeSantis also Tuesday lifted tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge, which spans part of Pensacola Bay, until noon Wednesday. The hurricane center had Sally about 85 miles south of Mobile, Ala., late Tuesday afternoon, inching along at 2 mph, with 80 mph maximum sustained winds. It’s that slow speed and lingering severe weather that could create major problems for the Florida Panhandle.
“Historic life-threatening flash flooding is likely through Wednesday along and just inland of the coast from the western Florida Panhandle to far southeastern Mississippi,” the hurricane center said in a mid-day advisory on Tuesday.
The counter-clockwise rotation of the storm meant heavy storm surge for Pensacola, which is ongoing near and east of where Sally’s center is crossed the coast. A storm surge of over 5 feet has been recorded so far this morning near Pensacola, Florida, according to Weather.com.
In addition, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for counties as far east as Bay County, and included Holmes, Calhoun, Walton and Washington Counties until 3:45pm Wednesday afternoon.
Some reporting from News Service of Florida was used in this story.