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HURRICANE SALLY: Sally now a tropical storm, Northwest Florida begins to see some relief

Nick Tomecek
Northwest Florida Daily News

3 p.m. Update

Sally has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Wind continues to affect Northwest Florida but it has died down considerably from Wednesday morning.

First responders are helping people who have flooded homes and many major roads have been shut down due to flooding.

The eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 98 are under water on Okaloosa Island, reminiscent of the flooding from Hurricane Ivan in 2005. 

Flash flooding is a concern now for people living in flood prone areas in northern Walton and Okaloosa counties.

Sally made landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama, at 4:45 a.m. as a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.

Winds have since slowed to 70 mph, dropping Sally into tropical-storm status, according to the the National Hurricane Center. Sally is moving north-northeast near 5 mph, and is expected to move even more quickly away from the Gulf region through the day.

Additional weakening is expected as the center moves farther inland this afternoon and tonight, and Sally is forecast to become a tropical depression by Thursday morning

10 a.m. Sally speeds up slightly, sustained winds at 80 mph

 Hurricane Sally has weakened and is moving faster inland, according to the 10 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

The storm now has sustained winds of 80 mph and is moving toward the north northeast at 5 mph. It is located 15 miles west of Pensacola.

More:ROAD CLOSURES: Okaloosa and Walton Road closures due to Hurricane Sally

Historic and catastrophic flooding, including widespread moderate to major river flooding, is unfolding along and just inland from west of Tallahassee, Florida, to Mobile Bay, Alabama. 

9 a.m. Widespread flooding and road closures plague Northwest Florida in wake of Sally

Hurricane Sally continues to drop  rain and flooding is widespread in counties across the Panhandle. It is estimated that 22 inches of rain has fallen in the Fort Walton Beach area.

More:ROAD CLOSURES: Okaloosa and Walton Road closures due to Hurricane Sally

Brooks Bridge and Marler Bridge in Okaloosa County are closed to traffic. Also, the westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 98 at the Hurlburt Field overpass are closed.

As of 7 a.m. Sally has sustained winds of 100 mph with higher gusts. Weakening is expected as the center moves inland today and tonight.

Despite the dangerous conditions created by the rain, most homes still had power as of 6 a.m. Approximately 13,000 outages had been reported in Okaloosa by Gulf Power and the CHELCO electric cooperative.

Raider Arena, the basketball auditorium at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, was opened to provide shelter to evacuated/displaced residents, Maddox said in an announcement posted at shortly after 3:30 a.m. 

Sally made landfall in Gulf Shores at 4:45 a.m. as a category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.

U.S. Highway 98 on Okaloosa Island is closed due to flooding. Brooks Bridge is also closed.

On the forecast track, Sally is expected to move inland across southeastern Alabama through today into tonight. The storm is continuing to move north-northeast at 3 mph. National Hurricane Center forecasters say Sally will continue to move into Georgia through this evening.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

  • A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for...
  • * Dauphin Island Alabama to the Walton/Bay County Line Florida
  • A Hurricane Warning is in effect for... * Mississippi/Alabama border to the Okaloosa/Walton County line Florida
  • A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for... * East of the Okaloosa/Walton County line Florida to Indian Pass Florida * Mississippi/Alabama border to the Mouth of the Pearl River