Tropical Storm Sally has left more than half a million Americans without power as its torrential rain and storm surge plundered the American Gulf Coast.
Sally weakened after making landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday, but the slow-moving storm has continued to hit Florida and Alabama.
One person was killed and hundreds were rescued from flooded areas.
Pensacola, in Florida, was badly hit, bringing down a portion of the Bay Bridge.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues in Florida Panahle and parts of southern Alabama.”
Pensacola fire chief Ginni Cranor told CNN that the storm has brought “four months of rain in four months” to the city.
One person was killed and another went missing in the city of Orange Beach, Alabama.
Sally made a landing at Gulf Coast, Alabama at 04:45 am local time on Wednesday with maximum winds of 105mph (169 km / h).
According to NHC, Category 2 storms have sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph. NHC states that the “extremely dangerous winds” of Category 2 hurricanes typically damage homes and shallow trees.
The storm later becomes a tropical depression with winds of up to 35 mph, but it is the rains and the sharp edge of the high storm that cause the most damage.
According to local reports, the storm moved north from the coast, leaving about 550,000 residents in the affected areas in the dark on Wednesday night.
Sally is one of several hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, with officials using letters to name storms near the end of their annual alphabetical list.
What’s the latest on loss?
Rainfall is being measured in feet instead of inches in some places, but 18in (45cm) has been recorded in many areas.
Flooding at a depth of 5 feet killed Central Pensacola. The storm was the third worst storm in the city. The police there told people not to go out to see the damage, saying: “This is slowing our progress. Please stay home!”
Although the winds did not have the destructive force of the deadly Hurricane Laura, which occurred last month, they ripped boats from the ghats and sent a barge to the under-construction Bay Bridge. They were certainly high enough to deal with high-sided vehicles.
Another barge broke loose and headed towards the Eskamia Bay Bridge, but fortunately Ashour fled.
The Sheriff of Escambia County said he did not expect the devastation caused by Sally.
“The rain is what it turns out to be: it’s unreal,” 50-year-old Cavin Holyhand, who lives in Mobile, Alabama, told Reuters.
The NHC said it “has a deadly threat” on the Florida-Alabama border.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said many areas around Mobile are seeing historic flood levels and urged people to warn.
The ghat in Gulf State Park in Alabama suffered significant damage.
The latest on power cuts from the Poweroutage.us website lists 290,000 customers without electricity in Alabama and 253,000 more in Florida.
At the same time many trees were uprooted due to the pylons being brought down.
The rain appeared to fall sideways in Alabama, causing the roads to be submerged and the storm to fly ash. Other areas along the coast were also affected, with beaches and highways in Mississippi and low-lying properties in Louisiana covered by rising waters.
Alabama, Florida and Mississippi all declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm.
Is climate change the cause of slow storms?
John D. Block at the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, told the New York Times that Sally was “drifting at the speed of a child in a candy shop”.
According to experts, Sally’s speed may be linked to climate change. A 2018 study in the journal Nature found that the speed with which hurricanes and tropical storms move in an area was reduced by 10% between 1949 and 2016, a drop that was associated with an increase in total rainfall.
NHC deputy director Ed Rappaport told The Associated Press, “Sally has a feature that often doesn’t show up, and is a slow-moving pace and is about to intensify flooding.”
In addition to Sally, there are four other tropical cyclones that roam the basins of the Atlantic Ocean – Paulette, René, Teddy and Vicky.
If only one more storm is officially named – Wilfred has already been chosen – meteorologists will opt out of pseudonyms for the rest of the year and therefore begin naming new storms after the Greek alphabet.