Sally weakens to tropical depression, leaves massive flooding on US Gulf Coast

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Former Hurricane Sally moved northeast on Thursday, where it is expected to bring more than 300 millimeters of rain to some areas, a day after flooding the streets and turning off hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses on the US Gulf of Mexico coast.Sally made landfall early Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Alabama, with winds clocked at 169 km / h, making it a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson five-stage intensity scale.

At the end of Wednesday, it was moving north at 19 km / h after being downgraded to a tropical depression, the US National Hurricane Center said, with maximum winds of 50 km / h.

The storm is said to have killed one person in Alabama.

“We had a body wash. We believe it was related to a hurricane, but we have no definitive proof of that at this time, ”said Trent Johnson, a police lieutenant in Orange Beach, Ala.

Parts of the coast were inundated with over 600 millimeters (two feet) of rain as the slow storm inundated communities. The coastal town of Pensacola, Florida suffered up to 1.5 meters in flooding and travel was interrupted by damaged roads and bridges. More than 570,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power.

WATCH | Hurricane Sally causes large-scale flooding and major power outages

“We started to hear all of our windows start popping up,” said Logan Estill of Mobile, Alabama, as he exited the Category 2 storm on the US Gulf Coast. 0:47

Several residents along the Alabama and Florida coasts said damage from the storm caught them off guard. By the end of Wednesday, floodwaters had started to recede in some areas, although the National Weather Service warned that significant river flooding would be a concern over the weekend.

“It was just constant rain and wind,” said Preity Patel, 41, a resident of Pensacola for two years. Fortunately, the water drained fairly quickly. It’s just cleaning now. ”

Pensacola International Airport remains closed and officials say they must assess the safety of the runway and its facilities before it reopens.

In a statement Wednesday evening, the airport gave no timetable on when it will reopen. The airport closed Monday as Sally descended.

A man, standing outside his house, watches a street flooded by Sally in Pensacola, Florida. The storm hit the US Gulf Coast early Wednesday, causing widespread destruction. (Chandan Khanna / AFP / Getty Images)

The airport typically offers dozens of daily flights from airlines such as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. He asks passengers to contact their airlines about canceled flights.

Authorities have warned that rain from the storm could inflate eight waterways in Florida and Alabama to record levels. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has warned residents and visitors of possible river flooding in the coming days.

The Pensacola Bay Bridge, also known as the Three Mile Bridge, lacked an “important section,” DeSantis said at a press conference.

Electrical crews from other states arrived in Pensacola as utilities began restoring power to Alabama and Florida, according to local utilities.

“This year we just had a hurricane after a hurricane,” said Matt Lane, 23, a crew member from the New Hampshire Electric Co-op, who arrived late Tuesday directly after recovery efforts from Hurricane Laura in Texas.

Sally was the 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season this year and the eighth of the tropical storm or force of hurricanes to hit the United States. There are currently three other named storms in the Atlantic, making it one of the most active seasons on record.

The predicted path of former Hurricane Sally. (CBC News)

Hurricanes have increased in intensity and destructiveness since the 1980s as the climate warmed, according to researchers from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Stop oil production

Sally also shut down 508,000 barrels per day (b / d) of oil production and 805 million cubic feet of natural gas, more than a quarter of U.S. production from the Gulf of Mexico, and halted exports of petrochemicals all along the Gulf Coast.

Bristow Group, which transports oil workers from a helipad in Galliano, Louisiana, has resumed crew change flights to facilities in the western and central Gulf of Mexico.

“We are doing offshore flights and are experiencing a slight increase in the number of departing passengers,” said heliport manager Lani Moneyhon.

Louisiana’s offshore oil port, a deep-water oil port that handles supertankers, reopened its marine terminal after suspending operations over the weekend. About 1.1 million bpd of U.S. refining capacity was offline on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, including two plants under repair since Hurricane Laura and another shut down by weak demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A construction site is seen on the coast hours before Sally reaches the US Gulf of Mexico coast in Pascagoula, Mississippi. (Chandan Shanna / AFP / Getty Images)

Crude weakened early Thursday with US futures down a fraction and trading below US $ 40 a barrel. Gasoline futures edged higher early in the session, continuing their gains this week.

Phillips 66, which closed its 255,600 bpd Alliance oil refinery in Louisiana ahead of the storm, said it was advancing planned maintenance for the facility and would keep the interrupted processing.

Mobile, Ala., Royal Dutch Shell’s chemical plant and refinery did not report any serious damage following an initial investigation, the company said. Chevron said its oil refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was operating normally during the storm.

Shell will also keep the crude distillation unit, alkylation unit and reformer closed for at least a week at its 227,400 b / d refinery in Norco, Louisiana, for short-term maintenance work. sources told Reuters. The units were closed due to threat from Sally.

WATCH | Florida and Alabama face heavy flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Sally:

Up to a meter of water was recorded in Pensacola, Florida as the woodstorm continued to pound the area with heavy rains. 1:03



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