Flooding a big concern as Gulf coast recovery begins from Sally

Sep 17, 2020

Hurricane Sally came ashore at Gulf Shores at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Ivan made landfall in the same city. Sally’s 105 mile an hour winds weren’t quite as powerful as Ivan, but the 2020 storm’s slow speed caused major damage and flooding as it took hours to move across the area. On Wednesday, no home or business in Gulf Shores had power. Grant Brown is Gulf Shores city spokesman. He said the main highway to the beach is impassible within a mile of the Gulf and only residents are being allowed bring allowed back in town.

“59 is closed to all traffic at Fort Morgan Road. No one can come over the bridge without a sticker showing they live here,” he said.

Brown said Gulf Shores will be making damage assessments this week but Sally’s effects are going to be extensive and expensive.

“We’re still trying to sort it out, but this had had a tremendous impact," he said.

Rivers swollen by Hurricane Sally's rains could mean more problems for parts of south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Sally had diminished to a tropical depression by late Wednesday. But it was still a rainmaker as it moved into Georgia on a path to the Carolinas. Authorities warned that rain from the storm could swell eight waterways in Florida and Alabama to record levels. The National Weather Service says the small city of Brewton, Alabama, can expect moderate to major flooding.

While Hurricane Sally had moved on, the storm left behind a trail if downed trees, damaged piers and blocked roads. Baldwin County rivers could reach record flood stages.

“All our rivers are rising,” said Jenni Guerry is Baldwin County Emergency Managment deputy director.

“Magnolia River is in major flood stage. Fish River, Styx River, Bon Secour River, Perdido River all could be at or near record levels by the time this done,” she observed.

Governor Kay Ivey has deployed rescue teams trained to rescue people from rising waters to the coast. Some people have already been saved under those circumstances. Baldwin deputies pulled two men from rushing water after their car ran off the road Wednesday, Sheriff Hoss Mack said. Mack said the men appeared to have been driving around looking at damage.

"Such sightseers are not only putting themselves in danger, they’re also a problem for crews trying to fix roads and clear debris,” said County Engineer Joey Nunnally.

“Rubbernecking hinders us from getting roads open. There’s a lot of debris on the roads and in some cases we’re trying to get at least one lane open right away for utility crews, EMC and Riviera, and emergency vehicles, but we’re getting people on the roads," said Nunnally. He added some roads and bridges are still underwater and are a danger to drivers. Guerry observed rising water could force more people from their homes.

“We have people in our shelters right now and we anticipate more need for shelter space because of people being displaced.”