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Hurricane Sally batters the Central Gulf Coast hours away from landfall

Expected to make landfall as a Category 1 storm
Satellite view of Hurricane Sally as it inches closer to the Central Gulf Coast Tuesday evening.
Satellite view of Hurricane Sally as it inches closer to the Central Gulf Coast Tuesday evening.(KBTX)
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 6:43 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Hurricane Sally has been crawling closer to the north-central Gulf Tuesday. Sally’s forward speed as of the 4PM update from the National Hurricane Center was only 2 mph. This means the center of the circulation continues to remain offshore allowing for this storm to maintain its strength and push in not only storm surge but also very heavy rainfall to portions of the Central and Eastern Gulf Coast.

11pm Update:

As of the hour, Hurricane Hunters have found that Sally has strengthened once again as it crawls toward the coast. The center of the storm has cleared out and a small, visible eye can be seen on satellite. Here are the stats as of 11pm:

  • Maximum sustained winds: 90 mph
  • Movement: north-northeast at 2 mph
  • Location of the center: 65 miles south-southeast of Mobile, Alabama / 60 miles southwest of Pensacola, Florida
  • Pressure: 971 mb

As of the latest update, Sally is 6mph short of becoming a category 2 hurricane again. The present forecast calls for landfall as a strong Category 1 storms Wednesday morning near the Alabama / Florida state line, with a sustained maximum wind of 90mph. Another point to note tonight, the forecast cone has shifted a bit more to the right, as of the 10pm update. That places the center of Sally more over the far western tip of the Florida Panhandle before moving through Southeast Alabama slowly through the day Wednesday.

4 to 6 feet of storm surge is possible as Sally makes landfall Wednesday morning, right around the same time as high tide. Rainfall could collect between 10 and 25 inches along the Gulf Coast. 5 to 15 inches of rain is possible across Southeast Alabama and portions of Georgia over the next 24 to 48 hours.

As of 4pm:

  • Maximum sustained winds: 80 mph
  • Movement: North at 2 mph
  • Location of the center: 85 miles south of Mobile, Alabama
  • Pressure: 979 mb

The reason for the slow forward speed of this system has to do with the upper-level pattern. High pressure over the Gulf of Mexico keeps the jet stream parked well to the north, and the high pressure system does not have a strong influence to scoop Sally up and away from the Gulf coast. This high pressure system also helps to keep the wind shear down which allows Sally to maintain its strength as it approaches landfall.

Sally is expected to make landfall Wednesday morning as a Category 1 hurricane.
Sally is expected to make landfall Wednesday morning as a Category 1 hurricane.(KBTX)

Landfall is forecast to happen sometime Wednesday morning but with little in the way of forward motion, it may take over 24 hours for this storm to move 160 miles. This keeps the impacts of onshore push of water along the coastal regions and very heavy rainfall in the forecast for the southeast along with tropical storm-force winds.

Excessive Rainfall Outlooks show the probability that flash flooding thresholds will be met due to heavy rainfall.
Excessive Rainfall Outlooks show the probability that flash flooding thresholds will be met due to heavy rainfall.(KBTX)
Excessive Rainfall Outlooks show the probability that flash flooding thresholds will be met due to heavy rainfall.
Excessive Rainfall Outlooks show the probability that flash flooding thresholds will be met due to heavy rainfall.(KBTX)

By Thursday afternoon, a little help from an area of low pressure that will bring a cold front through the Brazos Valley will shift eastward to finally kick this storm out of the Gulf coastal region as it continues to weaken over land. As this happens, it is expected to lose tropical characteristics and become an remnant low Friday afternoon over South Carolina.

An upper-level low pressure system that impacts Texas Thursday will help nudge Sally eastward by the end of the week.
An upper-level low pressure system that impacts Texas Thursday will help nudge Sally eastward by the end of the week.(KBTX)

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