Hurricane Sally strengthened to a Category 2 early on Wednesday and is likely to cause "catastrophic and life-threatening flooding" along portions of the northern Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The NHC said Sally made landfall at 5:45 a.m. near Gulf Shores, Ala. as a Category 2 storm. As of 5 a.m., Sally had been located about 50 miles south-southeast of Mobile, as it crawled north-northeast at 3 mph, according to the NHC.
Its northern eyewall has started to bring hurricane conditions across the Gulf Coast from Pensacola Beach, Fla., to Dauphin Island, Ala. Maximum sustained winds were recorded at 105 mph and its slow-moving pace could result in possible record floods.
“Historic life-threatening flash flooding due to rainfall is likely through Wednesday along and just inland of the coast from the Florida Panhandle west of the Apalachicola River to far southeastern Mississippi,” the NHC said. “Widespread moderate to major river flooding is forecast along and just inland of the central Gulf Coast.”
Sally battered the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama with heavy rain, strong winds, beach covering storm surges, and caused widespread power outages. More than 350,000 customers in Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana were reported to have lost electricity by Wednesday morning, according to poweroutage.us.
"Stay in your shelter and hunker down if you live on the coast. This is FAR FROM OVER!" wrote the National Weather Service in Mobile/Pensacola during a 5 a.m. update.
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Fort Morgan to the Walton/Bay County Line. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Okaloosa/Walton County line, according to the NHC.
Hurricane-force winds are expected to extend outward up to 40 miles from Sally's center, while tropical-storm-force winds will likely reach an area of 125 miles from the center.
In the Panhandle's Escambia County, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Chip Simmons vowed to keep deputies out with residents as long as physically possible. The county includes Pensacola, one of the largest cities on the Gulf Coast.
“The sheriff’s office will be there until we can no longer safely be out there, and then and only then will we pull our deputies in,” Simmons said at a storm briefing late Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report