Tropical Weather

This satellite image provided by NOAA shows five tropical cyclones churning in the Atlantic basin at 5:20 p.m. GMT Monday. The storms, from left, are Hurricane Sally over the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Paulette over Bermuda, the remnants of Tropical Storm Rene, and Tropical Storms Teddy and Vicky.

WAVELAND, Miss. — Hurricane Sally, one of four storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic, closed in on the Gulf Coast on Monday with rapidly strengthening winds of at least 100 mph and heavy rain as forecasters warned of “potentially historic” flooding and governors declared states of emergency.

The slow-moving storm was forecast to brush the southeastern tip of Louisiana and then blow ashore late Tuesday or early Wednesday near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, the National Hurricane Center said. Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Navarre, Florida.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, an action that authorizes federal emergency officials to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency assistance to the affected areas.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey asked the president to do the same for her state after the National Weather Service in Mobile warned of the increasing likelihood of “dangerous and potentially historic flooding.” The weather service forecast that waters could rise as much as 9 feet above ground in large parts of the Mobile metro area. With a population of 400,000 people, it is the largest metro area along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Tampa, Florida. Some businesses in Mobile placed sandbags at their entrances in preparation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the Panhandle’s westernmost counties, Escambia and Santa Rosa as the hurricane’s outer bands began to lash the area. All along the storm-weary Gulf Coast, residents rushed to buy bottled water and other supplies ahead of the hurricane, which powered up to a Category 2 in the afternoon. Forecasters said sustained winds could reach 110 mph, just below Category 3 strength, by landfall.

Seawater and sand swept onto roads on one end of Dauphin Island off the coast of Alabama, washing away several cars, Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said. He said about a dozen people had to be evacuated by Humvee.

In coastal Mississippi, water spilled onto roads, lawns and docks well before the storm’s arrival. All 12 casinos were ordered to shut down Monday afternoon and Gov. Tate Reeves urged residents of low-lying areas to prepare to evacuate.

“This is the real deal, and it deserves your attention,” Reeves wrote on Twitter. “Be smart. Prepare for worst. Pray for the best,” he said.

Reeves said Sally could dump up to 20 inches of rain on the southern part of the state. Shelters opened, but officials urged people who are evacuating to stay with friends or relatives or in hotels, if possible, because of the coronavirus.

The town of Kiln, Mississippi, where many homes sit high on stilts along the Jourdan River and its tributaries, was under a mandatory evacuation order, and it appeared most residents obeyed.

“It would be dumb to stay here,” said Michael “Mac” Mclaughlin, 72, a retiree who planned to ride out the storm in New Orleans with his girlfriend. He said his home was built in 2014 to withstand hurricanes, “but I just don’t want to be here when the water’s that deep and be stranded. That wouldn’t be smart.”

Jeremy Burke lifted things off the floor in case of flooding in his Bay Books bookstore in the Old Town neighborhood of Bay St. Louis, a popular weekend getaway from New Orleans, about 60 miles to the west.

“It’s turning into a ghost town,” he said.

Sally has lots of company during what has become one of the busiest hurricane seasons in history — so busy that forecasters have almost run through the alphabet of names with 2 1/2 months still to go.

For only the second time on record, forecasters said, five tropical cyclones swirled simultaneously in the Atlantic basin at one point Monday. The last time that happened was in 1971.

In addition to Sally were Hurricane Paulette, which passed over a well-fortified Bermuda on Monday and was expected to peel harmlessly out into the North Atlantic; and Tropical Storms Rene, Teddy and Vicky, all of them out at sea and unlikely to threaten land this week, if at all. Rene was downgraded to a trough of low pressure Monday evening.

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