wjxt logo

Hurricane Sally reaches the Gulf Coast


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The most interesting turn in the slow-moving saga called Sally, is a notable shift in the forecast tracks to the east.

As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, the center of Hurricane Sally was impacting Gulf Shores, Ala.. Sally is moving toward the north at 2 mph. A slow northward motion is expected tonight, followed by a slow north-northeastward to northeastward motion Wednesday night. A slightly faster northeastward motion is expected on Thursday.

On the forecast track, the center of Sally will approach the northern Gulf Coast tonight, and make landfall in the hurricane warning area late tonight or Wednesday. Sally is expected to move inland across southeastern Alabama Wednesday night and Thursday.


Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft and NWS Doppler radar indicates that maximum sustained winds are near 105 mph with higher gusts. Little change in strength is forecast until landfall occurs and Sally is expected to be a dangerous hurricane when it moves onshore along the north-central Gulf Coast.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles. A NOAA buoy located about 50 miles southeast of Mobile, Alabama, recently reported sustained winds of 58 mph and a gust to 67 mph within the past couple of hours. An observing site at the Okaloosa Fishing Pier in Florida has reported sustained winds of 44 mph and a gust to 52 mph.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued from Grand Isle, Louisiana, northeast to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued from east of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to Indian Pass, Florida.

A tropical storm watch was extended westward from the Okaloosa/Walton County line in Florida to the Alabama-Florida line.

A storm surge watch, meanwhile, was in effect from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Alabama-Florida line, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, Lake Borgne in Louisiana — and Mobile Bay in Alabama.

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.

  • Mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, MS including Lake Borgne...6-9 ft
  • Ocean Springs, MS to MS/AL Border...4-6 ft
  • MS/AL Border to AL/FL Border including Mobile Bay...2-4 ft
  • Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas...2-4 ft
  • Port Fourchon, LA to Mouth of the Mississippi River...1-3 ft
  • AL/FL Border to Chassahowitzka, FL including Pensacola Bay, Choctawhatchee Bay, and Saint Andrew Bay...1-3 ft
  • Burns Point, LA to Port Fourchon, LA...1-3 ft

Overtopping of local levees outside of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System is possible where local inundation values may be higher than those shown above. The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and damaging waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle and can vary greatly over short distances.

In addition to storm surge, Sally is expected to produce heavy rainfall after landfall. Sally is expected to be a slow-moving system as it approaches land, producing 8 to 16 inches of rainfall with isolated amounts of 24 inches over portions of the central Gulf Coast from the western Florida Panhandle to far southeast Louisiana through the middle of the week. Life-threatening flash flooding is likely.

In addition, this rainfall will likely lead to widespread minor to isolated major flooding on area rivers. Sally is forecast move farther inland early Wednesday and tracks into the Southeast with rainfall of 6 to 12 inches possible across portions of inland southeast Mississippi and Alabama. Significant flash and urban flooding is likely, as well as widespread minor to moderate flooding on some rivers.

Further heavy rain is then anticipated across portions of eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and western Carolinas Thursday into Friday. Flash, urban, and minor river flooding is possible across this region.

Outer bands of Sally are expected to produce additional rainfall of 1 to 3 inches across the Florida peninsula Tuesday. This rainfall may produce flash and urban flooding and prolong high flows and ongoing minor flooding on rivers across central Florida.

About the Authors:

Our chief meteorologist lives and breathes the weather on the First Coast.