“Catastrophic floods” on the passage of Hurricane Sally

In Pensacola, Hurricane Sally caused a storm surge greater than 150 cm in some places. – erald Herbert / AP / SIPA

Submerged streets and power cuts: the US state of Alabama and northwest Florida were swept away Wednesday by the rains of Hurricane Sally, which caused “catastrophic” flooding. In total, more than 500,000 homes no longer had electricity Wednesday morning in these two states.

Sally made landfall at dawn in Gulf Shores, a small town in the state of Alabama. It was then in category 2, and has since been demoted to category 1. The winds carried by the storm have calmed down and are now reaching 80 km / h, with gusts of nearly 130 km / h. It moves slowly (less than 10 km / h), which means continuous rains over the same areas for an extended period, intensifying the rising waters. “Catastrophic and historic flooding is underway,” warned the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

In the early hours of the morning, the streets of the city of Pensacola and its 50,000 inhabitants, in the far northwest of Florida, were transformed into torrents, according to numerous videos circulating on social networks.

A portion of a collapsed bridge

The passage of the hurricane had “devastating effects,” David Morgan, Sheriff of Escambia County, where Pensacola is located, told a press conference Wednesday morning. “We anticipate evacuations which will number in the thousands” when they are possible, he warned.

The situation “is bad,” he said, reporting that a portion of a bridge in the city had likely collapsed. “It will take a considerable amount of time to clean this up.” Relief operations were underway and shelters were opened, but authorities urged people to stay safe in their homes when possible.

“Extremely dangerous situation”

About 40 miles away, in Alabama, footage showed the marina in the seaside town of Orange Beach swept away, with pleasure boats blown by the winds to the docks amid debris. Authorities in Baldwin County, where Orange Beach is located, alerted Wednesday morning to an “extremely dangerous situation”, with “serious and extensive damage.”

The hurricane also caused significant damage around the nearby town of Mobile, where windows were smashed and the streets were littered with tree branches. “There are many areas with historic flood levels,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said Wednesday morning, where a state of emergency was declared on Monday.

With the warming of the ocean surface, hurricanes become stronger, according to scientists, who thus predict an increase in the proportion of category 4 and 5 cyclones. Paulette, René, Teddy and Vicky: with Sally, no less than five storms broke out simultaneously over the Atlantic in early September, a record since 1971.

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