Hurricane Sally is crawling toward the northern Gulf Coast at just two miles an hour, a pace that will allow the storm to gather huge amounts of water to dump on land eventually.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a state of emergency declaration for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties on Monday, in advance of Hurricane Sally.
“We don’t necessarily anticipate hurricane-force winds in those areas at this time; but we think it’s very likely there will be tropical storm-force winds,” said DeSantis. “We do though see a potential for the storm to really slow down and stall out.”
Escambia and Santa Rosa are under a hurricane warning. Should the storm track farther to the east, the governor said they can add more counties to the declaration.
“Listen to your local officials; there may be some low-lying areas, if they issue evacuation order heed those calls,” DeSantis said. “It’s probably not going to be a major hurricane in terms of the winds; you probably won’t even see that if you’re in Northwest Florida, but you do have the potential to see a huge amount of rain over the next day, day and a half.”
At last check, Sally had sustained winds of 85 mph, and was 110 miles south of Mobile, moving northwest at 2 mph. Forecasters expect it to maintain that wind level until it makes landfall late today or early Wednesday near the Alabama-Mississippi state line.
“We’ve been monitoring Sally [since] she was a cluster of storms last Friday, and we put strategies in place in case we did have a shift in the storm,” said Eric Gilmore, Escambia County Emergency Manager.
He said they had to pull those “trigger points” that they had been planning for all weekend.
“We were able to do to the successful evacuation of Zone-A for Escambia County to include Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach; and also set up our shelter, which is the Pensacola Bay Center,” Gilmore said. “We have requested 6 additional high-water vehicles from the state of Florida; the [Escambia County] Sheriff’s Office has their 2 high-water vehicles. And we also have a swift-water team that will be coming in.”
For those not planning to evacuate, Gilmore repeats what could be called the “hurricane prep mantra.”
“Know your plan, know your home, know your zone,” said Gilmore. “Make sure you’re at your safe place; you’ve got just a small window to get out. Go to a friend’s house, evacuate, and implement your plan that we’ve been preaching -- make sure you do those things.”
At the moment, coastal storm surge is expected between two and four feet. Three Mile, Theo Baars and Lillian bridges are closed, because of high winds. And there are reports that a construction barge broke loose and struck Three Mile. Gilmore also reminds everyone that tornadoes are possible.
“Everybody needs to be vigilant; watch the news, watch media outlets,” Gilmore said. “Go to bereadyescambia.com and sign up for our alerts so you know what’s going on real time. We have pulled our fire departments off the two beaches for protective measures. So we do have our Pensacola Beach and our Perdido Key fire departments pulled back to the mainland.”
“We can all get through this, folks; we’ve all got Ph.Ds in how to handle hurricanes and storms in Escambia County; and so let’s continue with this education,” said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. “Some basics of what we want you to do to keep your family and help us in keeping our community safe.”
If you don’t have to venture out, Morgan is asking that if you stay home – but if you must go out, make sure it’s out of necessity.
“If you need help in checking on another family member -- if they are elderly our homebound – you can call 436-9620. That’s the Escambia County dispatch,” Morgan said. “We will assist in that checking for those who are homebound, so you do not have to go 0ut in this inclement weather.”
Other closures include Pensacola International Airport; Gulf Islands National Seashore, and J. Earle Bowden Parkway, aka County Road 399.The complete list is at www.myescambia.com.