PENSACOLA, United States (AFP) – Tropical Storm Sally has downed trees, flooded streets and homes and knocked out power, reportedly killing one person, as it pounded the United States (US) southeast with torrential rain.
The storm made landfall on Wednesday morning near Gulf Shores, Alabama along the border with Florida as a Category 2 hurricane.
Slow-moving Sally, which was subsequently downgraded to a tropical storm, then lingered over parts of southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle where it caused severe flooding with copious amounts of rain, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
“Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues over portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama,” the NHC warned.
US media reported one fatality in the coastal town of Orange Beach, Alabama but Mayor Tony Kennon said he had no further details, according to news site AL.com.
Some of the worst reported flooding occurred about 30 miles east in the city of Pensacola, Florida, which has a population of around 52,000. Downtown streets resembled lakes with cars submerged to the tops of their wheels and wind gusts whipping up whitecaps on the water.
“Flooded roadways and intersections, along with hazardous debris in roadways have become too numerous to list,” the Pensacola police tweeted. “Please stay off roadways now.”
Northwest Florida residents were expecting rain and wind, but were largely caught off guard when Sally veered sharply east and came in for a direct hit.
People were left with no time to gather food or water, let alone cover windows or place sandbags in front of doors.
Pensacola resident Karen Sharp said: “I was afraid, I’m glad it’s all over with, thank Goodness we’re alive. Really.”
Jeff Gardner said his family was “surprised that we found ourselves inside the hurricane.”
“You just sit there wondering if, you know, your house is about to start to be ripped apart,” the 47-year-old told AFP.