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Hurricane Sally live updates: Storm nears landfall; winds at 105 mph

Annie Blanks Dinah Voyles Pulver
Pensacola News Journal

Sally's winds at 105, storm closer to shore

5 a.m.: The center of Hurricane Sally's remains 45 miles southwest off Pensacola Beach, with maximum sustained winds at 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. An observing station in Fort Morgan, Ala., measured a sustained wind of 98 mph and a gust up to 116 mph.

NHC meteorologists say a slight strengthening is expected prior to landfall later this morning. Once the eye reaches land, the storm is expected to weaken significantly.

Sally's eye 50 miles southwest of Pensacola 

Sustained winds of 58 mph and a gust up to 75 mph were measured at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, but the center of the eye is still 50 miles southwest of Pensacola and about 55 miles southeast of Mobile.

Pensacola police: 'Stay off roads now' (2:01 a.m.)

Pensacola police said in a Tweet: Flooded roadways and intersections, along with hazardous debris in roadways (locations) have become too numerous to list. Please stay off the roadways now.

Sally's winds could strengthen further to 110 mph

Hurricane Sally, now with sustained winds of 105 mph, could strengthen a little more before making landfall in a few hours, the National Hurricane Center said in a 1:30 a.m. advisory. Sustained winds could reach 110 mph, just below major hurricane strength, with gusts to 130 mph. 

Flash food emergency issued in south central Escambia County (1:06 a.m.)

A flash flood emergency situation is being reported in southeastern Baldwin County, Alabama and south central Escambia County, Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile. 

Locations that will experience flash flooding include Pensacola, West Pensacola, Warrington, Gulf Shores, Foley, Orange Beach, Goulding, Lillian, Myrtle Grove, Magnolia Springs, Bon Secour, Perdido Beach, Elberta, Josephine, Perdido Heights, Paradise Beach, Perdido Bay, Caswell and Miflin. 

Additional rainfall amounts up to 15 inches are possible in the warned area through midday" on Wednesday. 

Sally's winds increase to 105 mph (12:55 a.m.)

At 1 a.m. Central Time, the center of Hurricane Sally is about 60 miles south-southeast of Mobile and 55 miles southwest of Pensacola, still moving north-northeast at 2 mph. Sally's sustained winds were recorded at 105 mph. 

Cat. 2 Hurricane Sally continues crawl toward Florida/Alabama (12:45 a.m.)

Latest radar images show Sally continuing to slowly drift north-northeast toward the Florida-Alabama border, according to NWS Tallahassee

Rainfall totals increase at NAS Pensacola 

Rainfall at NAS Pensacola is up to 18.25 inches.

Pelican Reef Restaurant flooded: reports (12:14 a.m.)

NWS Mobile: The Pelican Reef Restaurant in Foul River Alabama is reportedly flooded with an estimated 1.5 feet of water inside. 

Sally gains strength as Category  2 storm, still hours from landfall (midnight)

Sally has restrengthened into a Category 2 hurricane, with winds of 100 mph as it approaches the Gulf Coast.  

The hurricane center based its latest estimate on data from an Air Force Reserve Reconnaissance aircraft and the Mobile, Alabama Doppler weather radar. If further strengthening becomes likely before landfall, the hurricane center stated it would do an update at 1 a.m. CDT. 

A sustained wind of 76 mph, with a gust to 96 mph, was recently reported in Sally's northern eyewall by a NOAA buoy about 50 miles southeast of Mobile, Alabama. An amateur radio operator recently reported a gust to 60 mph in Navarre Beach, Florida. 

Tornado warning in effect (11:30 p.m.)

A tornado warning is in effect in southeastern Escambia and southern Santa Rosa counties until 12:15 a.m., for a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado. The storm was 4 miles southwest of Navarre Beach at 11:36 p.m., moving northwest at 55 mph. 

Winds hit tropical storm force at NAS Pensacola (11:29 p.m.)

Sustained winds reached tropical storm force by 10:56 p.m. at Pensacola NAS and have been 40-46 mph and gusting as high as 64 mph at Pensacola NAS.

Over 16 inches of rain recorded at NAS Pensacola (11:10 p.m.)

Rainfall total at NAS Pensacola is 16.27 inches so far and gusts to tropical storm force strength since 2:56 a.m. Tuesday. 

Flash Flooding warning extended (11 p.m.)

The National weather Service has extended a flash flooding warning for Esambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa County, along with counties in Alabama until 6:45 a.m. More than 16 inches of rain in Pensaocla since overnight tuesday.

Pensacola Beach water main break reported, ECUA will shut off water at 11 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

A significant water main break has occurred on Pensacola Beach, and ECUA crews cannot respond due to current storm conditions and bridge closures.

ECUA intends to shut off the water system at approximately 11 p.m. tonight or until water pressure falls significantly.

Storm surge and tide levels will also inundate the sewer collection system, which further necessitates the need to shut off the water system.  

ECUA urged residents who are still on Pensacola Beach to store water if possible.

ECUA will dispatch crews to locate the break and make repairs as soon as possible post-storm.

Parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa under flash flood warning (8:10 p.m.)

Southern Escambia County and southwestern Santa Rosa County are under a flash flood warning until 11:15 p.m. as Hurricane Sally pounds the area with heavy rainfall.

Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated heavy rain was falling across the warning area, which also includes southeastern Baldwin County in Alabama.

The flooding of small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses is expected.

Locations that may experience flash flooding include Pensacola, Ferry Pass, Brent, West Pensacola, Warrington, Gulf Breeze, Navarre, Perdido Beach, Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach.

Additional rainfall of 5-10 inches is possible in those areas. Potential rainfall of 20-30 inches is possible through Wednesday.

A tornado watch remains in effect until 6 a.m.

Navarre Causeway Bridge closing (6:30 p.m.)

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office has closed the Navarre Causeway Bridge due to high winds.

Garcon Point Bridge closing (5:30 p.m.)

The Garcon Point Bridge is closing after the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office recorded sustained winds of 40 mph or greater, according to Santa Rosa County Emergency Management,

Storm surge may cause sewer back ups on Pensacola Beach Road, Live Oak Plaza Shopping Center (3:30 p.m.)

In a Facebook post, the city of Gulf Breeze advised citizens that residents of Pensacola Beach Road and the Live Oak Plaza Shopping Center may experience sewer back up at some point during the storm event due to storm-surge related flooding.

Residents are advised to reduce water usage such as flushing toilets and running water down drains as much as possible. The storm surge and flood waters draining into the sewer pump stations may overwhelm the ability of the pumps to pump sewage to the treatment facility.

Residents can prevent sewer back ups in their homes by placing a large trash bag in their toiler bowls and over their shower drains, then placing sandbags on top of the plastic bags.  

DeSantis suspends Garcon Point Bridge tolls (2 p.m.)

Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed the suspension of tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise collects tolls for the Garcon Point Bridge. Tolls are suspended on the Garcon Point until noon Wednesday.

Santa Rosa County issues voluntary evacuation orders for Zone A residents (12:50 p.m.)

Santa Rosa County is issuing a voluntary evacuation for people who live in Zone A or people who live in mobile homes. 

Zone A includes certain homes that are situated on the water, like along Navarre Beach, the Gulf Breeze peninsula and the Blackwater River. To find out what zone you are located in, visit www.santarosa.fl.gov/knowyourzone

Santa Rosa County cautions some residents need to be ready to leave (11 a.m.)

Santa Rosa County officials cautioned that residents on Blackwater River, Coldwater Creek and Pond Creek need to make preparations and plans, which include pets, to move to higher ground quickly if needed.

Evacuations in Santa Rosa County have not been issued, but residents in low-lying areas and mobile homes were encouraged to seek safer shelter.

Santa Rosa County has opened a shelter at the Milton Community Center, 5629 Byrom St. in Milton 

The shelter is pet-friendly. Pets should be brought in a carrier with proof of vaccinations and all pet food and supplies including water, leashes and/or litter boxes with litter.

Bring COVID-19 supplies for you and your family or they will be provided for you. Masks are required in shelters.

Meanwhile, in Escambia County, officials on Monday evening called for a voluntary evacuation for the lowest-lying areas of the county, including Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. 

The county issued a voluntary evacuation for Zone A, which includes Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key, as well as low lying areas close to shore throughout the county.

Escambia County opened the Pensacola Bay Center at 8 p.m. Monday as shelter. 

If you are heading to a shelter, bring the following items:

  • Personal identification
  • Water, non-perishable snacks and any special dietary needs.
  • A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.
  • Toiletries and personal items.
  • Blankets, pillows and sleeping bags.
  • Games or toys for children; books for adults.
  • Special items for infants or elderly family members.
  • Battery operated radio, flashlights and plenty of spare batteries.
  • Prescriptions or any over-the-counter medications you normally need.

Northwest Florida coast to see 10-20 inches of rain, up to 30 inches in spots (10 a.m.) 

Sally's slowdown means even more rain for the Pensacola area, according to a bulletin from the National Weather Service,

Coastal areas along Northwest Florida can expect significant flash flooding, with rainfall totals between 10 to 20 inches and localized amounts of between 25 to 30 inches. 

Inland areas can expect 6 to 10 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts of 10 to 20 inches. 

Heavy wind building from the storm also forced the shutdown of the Pensacola Bay Bridge at around 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

Hurricane Sally slows to a crawl overnight Tuesday, begins dumping rain on Pensacola (5:45 a.m.)

Hurricane Sally slowed to a crawl overnight Monday, increasing the chances for a historic flooding event across the Florida Panhandle.

As of 5 a.m. Tuesday, the cyclone is moving west/northwest at just 2 miles per hour, surprising even forecasters, said Jonathan Howell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile.

“The primary change this cycle has been the speed,” Howell said. “The storm looks to be an even slower mover than we originally forecast, so it’s just going to move very, very slowly across the area probably through Thursday, and that’s going to really bring the threat of really significant flooding, potentially historic flooding, to much of the area.”

Latest NHC update:Hurricane Sally winds weaken slightly; forecasters warn of storm surge, flooding

Sally did weaken slightly overnight to a Category 1 storm due to ingesting some drier air, but thunderstorms around the eye of the storm early Tuesday morning indicated she's gaining strength again. 

Regardless of the intensity, Howell said it's important for residents to focus on the rainfall — not the wind speed — of Sally. 

“Inland freshwater flooding, as well as storm surge flooding, make up over half of our fatalities from all tropical cyclones,” Howell said. “Flooding is the greatest threat and risk associated with a hurricane, as compared to the winds. … we definitely need to pay close attention to this, and make sure that if you live in a low-lying area or in a flood-prone area, that you’re ready to get to higher ground.”

A slight shift east in Sally's track means she's expected to make landfall along the Alabama/Mississippi border Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Nearly an inch of rain fell in Pensacola between midnight and 5 a.m. As much as 20 inches of rain could fall in the area over the next three days. 

As of 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, South Garcon Point Road at Katie Street is closed in Santa Rosa County due to weather. Escambia County and the city of Pensacola have not reported any road closures. 

The Florida Highway Patrol will close bridges if sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour or greater. As of 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, no bridges have been closed so far. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday declared a state of emergency in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties ahead of Hurricane Sally's arrival on the Gulf Coast.

Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.