Between 8 p.m. Eastern time and 2 a.m. Wednesday, Sally rapidly strengthened into a strong Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Its eye struck the coast near Gulf Shores, Ala., at 5:45 a.m. Eastern time, moving northeast at a meager 3 mph.
At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the storm had decreased to a Category 1 with 80 mph winds, but the threat from extreme rainfall was unchanged.
The storm’s slow forward speed significantly heightens its damage potential, due to both heavy rainfall and surge.
While it was in its Gulf of Mexico holding pattern, Sally picked up tremendous amounts of moisture from the deep, warm waters, which are now wringing out in the form of extremely heavy rainfall. Early Wednesday, flash-flood emergencies — the most urgent, rarely used flash flood-related alerts — were issued for Pensacola, Fla., and nearby areas.
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