(CNN) — Sally downgraded to a tropical storm on Wednesday, but her threat to Alabama and Florida persists. The slow pace of the cyclone will continue to hit parts of the two states, affected since it made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane.
The effects of the tropical storm forced water rescue, caused power outages for thousands and caused trees to fall. Additionally, there are severe flooding in Florida and Alabama as Sally has moved at an agonizingly slow pace since Wednesday morning.
“We anticipate that evacuations could be literally thousands,” said David Morgan, sheriff of Escambia County, Florida, which includes Pensacola, of rescuing people in flooded neighborhoods.
Sally’s aftermath rescues have also been reported in several coastal communities in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. In Gulf Shores, Alabama, homes were flooded and trees fell onto roofs, city spokesman Grant Brown said.
A section of the Pensacola Three-Mile Bridge, which connects to the city of Gulf Breeze, disappeared because of Sally, Morgan said. “Guys, it’s going to be a long time … to get out of this,” said the sheriff.
Sally makes landfall
Sally made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane near Gulf Shores around 5:45 a.m. Miami time, with winds of 168 km / h. Hours later it degraded and is now a tropical storm with winds of 112 kilometers per hour around 1 pm
With Sally’s slow pace – now moving at 5 miles per hour – some areas of Florida and Alabama have already accumulated more than two feet of rain. In addition, they could receive up to 88 centimeters at the end of the storm.
Flood emergency and half a million without electricity
Flooding from Sally has turned streets into rivers in Pensacola, Florida, Associated Press images show. The dangerous debris fragments “have become too numerous to detail,” police warned.
“None of this is going away anytime soon,” National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham told CNN. “Winds, torrential rains, slow motion and storm surge – this is a dangerous situation everywhere.”
In Pensacola Beach, Florida, the sound of transformers exploding and metal scraping the ground – by debris from broken roofs – could be heard on Wednesday morning.
More than 500,000 customers in Alabama and Florida are without power, the utility tracker reported. PowerOutage.us.
The National Weather Service office in Mobile declared a flash flood emergency due “to the potential deadly threat and catastrophic damage.” The warning zone includes parts of the Alabama coast and the Florida Panhandle, including Gulf Shores and Pensacola.
The rains may drop totals of 10 to 35 inches from Mobile Bay to Tallahassee, Florida, according to forecasters.
Sally made landfall exactly 16 years after Category 3 Hurricane Ivan struck almost the same areas.
Sally’s slow speed is expected to continue through Wednesday as she turns north and then northeast, taking with it strong winds and more potential for flooding.
Central Alabama and central Georgia could see possibly 4 to 12 inches of rain, with the possibility of significant flash flooding. Parts of the Carolinas could receive 4 to 9 inches of rain by the end of the week.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for much of the coastline and low-lying areas from Mississippi to Florida, and shelters were opened to locate evacuees.
About 600 rescues in Florida due to Sally
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said “nearly 600 search and rescue missions have been conducted with local sheriff’s offices in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties” in West Florida.
During a press conference Wednesday, DeSantis said that “we have activated 500 Florida National Guard soldiers.”
DeSantis urged residents to stay home and stay out of the water. ‘People must be very, very careful. It’s dangerous, ”he said.
Don’t try to get out, there could be electrical wires in the water. Don’t try to get out in the car. It’s something they could regret, ”said the governor.
There are more than 130,000 reported power outages in Escambia County alone, DeSantis said.
Now that Sally’s strong winds have subsided, utility crews are working to restore power as quickly as possible.
DeSantis will go to Pensacola on Thursday to take an aerial tour and examine the damage, he said.
A 10-foot alligator in Alabama
The storm surge that a hurricane produces is itself a great risk. However, Gulf Shores, Alabama resident Tina Lambert Bennett discovered an additional danger in the storm surge Sally left behind. when he saw a “giant” alligator in water.
“I went upstairs to inspect the damage to our property as well as our neighbors’ dock, looked down and saw this giant (crocodile) in our yard,” he told CNN.
She explained that alligators are common in the area, but at 10 feet long, this one was extra large.
“We are aware that we have them in our area, as well as many poisonous snakes, so we know that we should not walk in flood waters. I was surprised by the size of this one, ”he said.
Bennett said that Sally, which struck early this morning as a Category 2 hurricane, brought strong winds to the area first and wildlife later.
Calls for help after Sally in Florida and Alabama
People have asked for help in both states.
Many called 911 to get out of the Sally-flooded areas in Alabama and Florida on Wednesday, multiple local governments reported.
In Alabama’s Baldwin County, between Mobile and Pensacola, people called 911 for help. However, emergency workers were unable to respond immediately in the early morning hours because conditions were unsafe, county deputy director of emergency management Jenni Guerry said.
In Santa Rosa County, Florida, east of Pensacola, emergency workers only responded to calls for high water levels on Wednesday morning because weather conditions are too dangerous for first responders, the Director of Public Safety Brad Bake.