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PENSACOLA, Fla. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Officials at the National Hurricane Center say “historic and catastrophic flooding is unfolding” from just west of Tallahassee, Florida to Mobile Bay as Hurricane Sally comes ashore.

The storm made landfall Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm, pushing a surge of ocean water onto the coast and dumping torrential rain that forecasters said would cause dangerous flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi and well inland in the days ahead.

Moving at an agonizingly slow 3 mph, Sally finally came ashore at 4:45 a.m. CST with top winds of 105 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. Sally’s northern eyewall had raked the Gulf Coast with hurricane-force winds and rain from Pensacola Beach, Florida, westward to Dauphin Island, Alabama, for hours before its center finally hit land.

Some 150,000 homes and businesses had lost electricity by early Wednesday, according to the poweroutage.us site. A curfew was called in the coastal Alabama city of Gulf Shores due to life-threatening conditions. 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.

This for a storm that, during the weekend, appeared to be headed for New Orleans. “Obviously this shows what we’ve known for a long time with storms – they are unpredictable,” Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson IV said.

Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist with the hurricane center, told The Associated Press said the rainfall will be “catastrophic and life threatening” over portions of the Gulf Coast, Florida panhandle and southeastern Alabama, and will continue well after landfall, with the storm producing heavy rainfall Wednesday night and Thursday over portions of central and southern Georgia.

Sally was a rare storm that could make history, said Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the hurricane center.

“Sally has a characteristic that isn’t often seen and that’s a slow forward speed and that’s going to exacerbate the flooding,” Rappaport told the AP.

He likened the storm’s slow progression to that of Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston in 2017. Up to 30 inches of rain could fall in some spots, and “that would be record-setting in some locations,” Rappaport said in an interview Tuesday night.

Although the hurricane had the Alabama and Florida coasts in its sights Wednesday, its effects were felt all along the northern Gulf Coast. Low lying properties in southeast Louisiana were swamped by the surge. Water covered Mississippi beaches and parts of the highway that runs parallel to them. Two large casino boats broke loose from a dock where they were undergoing construction work in Alabama.

In Orange Beach, Alabama, Chris Parks, a tourist from Nashua, New Hampshire, spent the night monitoring the storm and taking care of his infant child as strong winds battered his family’s hotel room. Their return flight home was canceled. Now, they are stuck in Alabama until Friday. “I’m just glad we are together,” Parks said. “The wind is crazy. You can hear solid heavy objects blowing through the air and hitting the building.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves urged people in the southern part of his state to prepare for the potential for flash flooding.

As Sally’s outer bands reached the Gulf Coast, the manager of an alligator ranch in Moss Point, Mississippi, was hoping he wouldn’t see a repeat of what happened at the gator farm in 2005, when about 250 alligators escaped their enclosures during Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge.

Gulf Coast Gator Ranch & Tours Manager Tim Parker says Sally has been a stressful storm because forecasters were predicting a storm surge of as much as 9 feet in his area. He felt some relief after surge predictions shifted.

After dumping rain on the coast Wednesday, Sally was forecast to bring heavy downpours to parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas later in the week.

Sally’s power was an irresistible draw for some in its path.

With heavy rains pelting Navarre Beach, Fla., and the wind-whipped surf pounding, a steady stream of people walked down the wooden boardwalk at a park for a look at the scene Tuesday afternoon.

Rebecca Studstill, who lives inland, was wary of staying too long, noting that police close bridges once the wind and water get too high. With Hurricane Sally expected to dump rain for days, the problem could be worse than normal, she said.

“Just hunkering down would probably be the best thing for folks out here,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Teddy has now become a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday.

Teddy is located about 820 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

Some strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Teddy is likely to become a major hurricane later Wednesday and could reach Category 4 strength on Thursday.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

News Source: cbslocal.com

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Beta weakens to tropical depression, stalls over Texas coast

HOUSTON – Beta weakened to a tropical depression Tuesday as it parked itself over the Texas coast, raising concerns of extensive flooding in Houston and areas further inland.

Beta made landfall late Monday as a tropical storm just north of Port O’Connor, Texas, and has the distinction of being the first time a storm named for a Greek letter made landfall in the continental United States. Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names last week, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.

By mid-morning Tuesday, Beta was 15 miles (25 kilometers) east-northeast of Victoria, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving toward the northeast at 2 mph (4 kilometers) and is expected to stall inland over Texas through Wednesday.

The National Weather Service said areas south and east of Houston had already seen 10 inches (25 centimeters) or more of rain by midday Tuesday because of Beta.

Street flooding was reported in parts of Houston, but there were no reports of buildings being flooded, Mayor Sylvester Turner said late Tuesday morning. Turner urged residents to stay home and, if they couldn't, to not drive around the 70-some barricades that have placed throughout the city.

The slow-moving storm was expected to bring multiple rounds of rain to Houston.

“It's going to be moving very slowly heading east and until it clears and gets on the east side of Houston, we’re going to have to deal with these rain bands,” Turner said.

Beta was the ninth named storm that made landfall in the continental U.S. this year. That tied a record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Beta was expected to eventually move over Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi later in the week, bringing the risk of flash flooding.

Forecasters warned of heavy rainfall Tuesday on the middle and upper Texas coast, which will cause significant flash flooding. Six to 12 inches of rain (15 to 30 centimeters) was expected, with some isolated areas of up to 20 inches (51 centimeters), forecasters said.

However, forecasters and officials reassured residents Beta was not expected to be another Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Imelda. Harvey in 2017 dumped more than 50 inches (127 centimeters) of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.

Turner, the Houston mayor, said the city would pre-emptively close roads if needed, citing lessons learned from Imelda when hundreds of drivers were stranded on flooded freeways.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 29 Texas counties ahead of Beta’s arrival.

Beta is forecast to dump heavy rain on the southwestern corner of Louisiana three weeks after the same area got pounded by Hurricane Laura. The rainfall and storm surge prompted Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.

In Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter worried about Beta’s rainfall could set back efforts in his Louisiana community to recover after Laura, which damaged about 95% of the city’s 30,000 structures. Hunter said the worry of another storm was “an emotional and mental toll for a lot of our citizens.”

Parts of the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle were still reeling from Hurricane Sally, which roared ashore Wednesday, causing at least two deaths.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy continued its path toward Canada, with a predicted landfall in Nova Scotia early Wednesday before moving into Newfoundland on Wednesday night, forecasters said. The large and powerful storm was causing dangerous rip currents along the U.S. East Coast, and tropical storm conditions were expected to begin in Nova Scotia by Tuesday afternoon, the hurricane center said.

Teddy was about 345 miles (555 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). Teddy was expected to weaken later Tuesday and Wednesday but forecasters said it would likely be a strong, post-tropical cyclone when it moves in and over Nova Scotia.

Paulette, which made landfall last week in Bermuda as a hurricane, has regenerated near the Azores but was weakening on Tuesday, the hurricane center said. Now a tropical storm, Paulette was expected to become a post-tropical remnant low in the next day or so.

The National Weather Service said on Twitter: “Because 2020, we now have Zombie Tropical Storms. Welcome back to the land of the living, Tropical Storm Paulette.”

___

Associated Press reporters Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland, and Janet McConnaughey and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans and Julie Walker in New York City contributed to this report.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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