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At least 1 dead, hundreds rescued after Hurricane Sally

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Sally lumbered ashore near the Florida-Alabama line Wednesday with 105 mph (165 kph) winds and rain measured in feet, not inches, killing at least one person, swamping homes and forcing the rescue of hundreds as it pushed inland for what could be a slow and disastrous drenching across the Deep South.

The death happened in Orange Beach, Alabama, according to Mayor Tony Kennon, who also told The Associated Press that one person was missing. Kennon said he couldn’t immediately release details.

Moving at just 3 mph (5 kph), or about as fast as a person can walk, the storm made landfall at 4:45 a.m. close to Gulf Shores, Alabama, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Pensacola, Florida. It accelerated to a light jog as it battered the Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama, metropolitan areas encompassing nearly 1 million people.

Sally cast boats onto land or sank them at the dock, flattened palm trees, peeled away roofs, blew down signs and knocked out power to more than 540,000 homes and businesses. A replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship the Nina that had been docked at the Pensacola waterfront was missing, police said.

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.

the afternoon, authorities in Escambia County, which includes
Pensacola, said at least 377 people had been rescued from flooded areas.
More than 40 people trapped by high water were brought to safety within
a single hour, including a family of four found in a tree, Sheriff
David Morgan said.

Authorities in Pensacola said 200 National
Guard members would arrive Thursday to help. Curfews were announced in
Escambia County and in some coastal Alabama towns.

Sally turned
some Pensacola streets into white-capped rivers early Wednesday. Sodden
debris and flooded cars were left behind as the water receded.

early afternoon, Sally had weakened into a tropical storm. Its maximum
sustained winds fell by Wednesday night to 45 mph (75 kph) and the
National Weather Service said heavy rains were spreading to the north
and east, into eastern Alabama and western Georgia.

At least
eight waterways in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were expected
to hit their major flood levels by Thursday. Some of the crests could
break records, submerge bridges and flood some homes, the National
Weather Service warned.

Morgan, the Escambia County sheriff,
estimated thousands would need to flee rising waters in the coming days.
Escambia officials urged residents to rely on text messages for
contacting family and friends to keep cellphone service open for 911

“There are entire communities that we’re going to have to
evacuate,” the sheriff said. “It’s going to be a tremendous operation
over the next several days.”

West of Pensacola, in Perdido Key,
Florida, Joe Mirable arrived at his real estate business to find the
two-story building shattered. Digging through the ruins, Mirable pointed
out a binder labeled “Hurricane Action Plan.”

“I think the professionals got this one wrong,” he said before the wind blew away his hat.

than 2 feet (61 centimeters) of rain was recorded near Naval Air
Station Pensacola, and nearly 3 feet (1 meter) of water covered streets
in downtown Pensacola, the National Weather Service reported.

“It’s not common that you start measuring rainfall in feet,” said forecaster David Eversole.

was the second hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in less than three weeks
and the latest to blow in during one of the busiest hurricane seasons
ever. Forecasters have nearly run through the alphabet of storm names
with 2 1/2 months still to go. At the start of the week, Sally was one
of a record-tying five storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic

Like the wildfires raging on the West Coast, the onslaught
of hurricanes has focused attention on climate change, which scientists
say is causing slower, rainier, more powerful and more destructive

An emergency crew rescued two people on Dauphin Island,
Alabama, after the hurricane ripped the roof off their home and the rest
of the house began to crumble. Mayor Jeff Collier said no one was

In Orange Beach, Alabama, the wind blew out the walls in
one corner of a condominium building, exposing at least five floors. At
least 50 people were rescued from flooded homes and taken to shelters,
Mayor Tony Kennon said.

“We got a few people that we just haven’t
been able to get to because the water is so high,” Kennon said. “But
they are safe in their homes. As soon as the water recedes, we will
rescue them.”

Sally’s crawl made it hard to predict where it
would strike. Just two days before landfall, the storm was forecast to
hit New Orleans — 140 miles (225 kilometers) west of where it came

So Robert Lambrisky and his husband were caught somewhat
off guard when the hurricane shook their door before daybreak and forced
rainwater inside their home in Sanders Beach near Pensacola.

had some warning, but this was just such a strange storm,” Lambrisky
said. “So all of this preparing that you do, when you know the storm is
coming, was something we only half did because we were convinced the
storm wasn’t going to hit us.”

Sally’s effects were felt all along
the northern Gulf Coast, affecting low-lying properties in Mississippi
and southeastern Louisiana.

Hurricane Laura pummeled southwestern
Louisiana on Aug. 27. Thousands of people were still without power from
that storm, and some were still in shelters.

Meanwhile, far out in the Atlantic, Teddy became a hurricane Wednesday with winds of 100 mph (160 kph). Forecasters said it could reach Category 4 strength before closing in on Bermuda, which took a direct hit from Hurricane Paulette only days ago.

Wang reported from Mobile, Alabama, and Martin, from Marietta, Georgia. Associated Press contributors include Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Sudhin Thanawala and Haleluya Hadero in Atlanta; Bobby Caina Calvan and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida; Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; and Julie Walker in New York.

Flood waters move on the street, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in downtown Pensacola, Fla. Hurricane Sally made landfall Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm, pushing a surge of ocean water onto the coast and dumping torrential rain that forecasters said would cause dangerous flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi and well inland in the days ahead. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)