Extensive flooding and dozens of rescues were reported along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning after Hurricane Sally roared ashore in Alabama, bringing torrential rain that threatens to spread further inland.
The hurricane center forecast “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding along portions of the north-central Gulf Coast,” with up to 35 inches of rain expected in parts of the region. As the storm turned northeast, the National Weather Service discontinued a storm surge warning for areas between Dauphin Island, Ala., and the Alabama-Florida border.
As the storm churned inland after making landfall as a Category 2 storm near Gulf Shores, Ala., damage reports were coming in from across the area.
The Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency in Alabama reported an "extremely dangerous situation," as major flooding was reported in the area as well as "severe widespread damage."
"If you are on high ground above flooded areas, being prepared to stay where you are may be the best protection," officials stated in an emergency alert.
Officials in Florida’s Panhandle have shut down Interstate 10 at Escambia Bay Bridge near Pensacola due to sustained high winds Wednesday morning.
Multiple roads were also shut down due to flooding in the Panhandle.
The NWS forecast office in Mobile said major storm surge flooding was reported in downtown Pensacola with at least 3 to 4 feet of water by 8 a.m., which "continues to worsen."
"Conditions are NOT improving along the coast this morning," the NWS tweeted.
More than 2 feet of rain was recorded near Naval Air Station Pensacola, and the NWS reported nearly 3 feet of water covered streets in downtown Pensacola.
Car alarms there were triggered, setting off honking horns and flashing lights that illuminated floodwaters up to the bumpers of parked cars.
Sally also knocked out a section of the new Three Mile Bridge in Pensacola as the storm pounds the Gulf Coast with wind and rain.
The Santa Rosa County Emergency Management said it received a report that a piece of the structure was "missing." Officials shared a photo of the missing section of the bridge.
"DO NOT attempt to cross this bridge," officials said. "Seek an alternate route."
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan confirmed at a news conference that part of the new bridge had come off amid the storm.
At least 40 people have been rescued so far, including a family of four found in a tree, Morgan.said The sheriff added that thousands of people in the communities he serves around Pensacola will need to be evacuated from rising water in the coming days.
“There are entire communities that we’re going to have to evacuate,” Morgan said. “It's going to be a tremendous operation over the next several days.”
A section of Florida's Highway 98, which runs parallel to the Gulf of Mexico, also was blocked by debris and downed power lines Wednesday morning.
In a tweet, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said residents should stay home because roads in the area “are dangerous right now." The agency added that numerous roads are closed due to the storm.
In Alabama, trees throughout the region were downed and cars were stuck in floodwaters in Gulf Shores.
City officials in Orange Beach, Ala., told The Associated Press they received 120 calls after midnight from people whose homes flooded.
Mayor Tony Kennon said between 50 and 60 people were rescued and are staying in makeshift shelters.
Kennon said rescue crews haven't been able to get to some people because of high water, but they're safe in their homes and will be rescued when the water recedes.
A curfew was in effect for the city until noon, with officials asking people to stay off the roads.
"Orange Beach Police/Fire dispatch have been inundated with calls and ask everyone to please be patient. They are doing everything they can to assist," the city said on Facebook. "They will respond as soon as conditions allow."
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday morning the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency are “fully engaged" in the disaster, citing President Trump's issuance of emergency declarations for the affected states.
Sally's impact will stretch far inland
Sally is still a powerful, dangerous and life-threatening storm as it moves inland from the Alabama and Florida coast.
The slow movement of Sally will bring prolonged, disastrous impacts on this region.
Areas from Gulf Shores to Pensacola have been under a rare flash flood emergency as some reporting stations record feet of rain.
Hurricane-force winds, life-threatening storm surge, very heavy rainfall and a threat of tornadoes will continue through Wednesday for portions of the central Gulf Coast region, forecasters said.
As the storm crawls inland, significant flash flooding, urban flooding and some river flooding will move into Alabama, Georgia and the Western Carolinas over the next few days.
Totals range from 10-35 inches of rain along the storm's path.
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The Atlantic basin, meanwhile, remains very active with several storms being monitored.
Teddy has strengthened into a hurricane and will threaten Bermuda later this weekend.
Fox News' David Aaro and The Associated Press contributed to this report.