By MAX GOLEMBO and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Sally is taking aim on the Gulf Coast where it’s forecast to bring dangerous storm surge and historic and life-threatening flooding this week.
Sally is expected to crawl very slowly across the northern Gulf of Mexico over the next 24 hours, making landfall Wednesday morning near coastal Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Wind gusts have already surpassed 90 mph on oil rigs off the Louisiana and Alabama coast.
The highest storm surge will likely be in eastern Louisiana and near Mobile Bay, Alabama, where the surge could reach 4 to 7 feet.
Storm surge of up to 4 feet is possible even in Florida and parts of Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, which is located on the northern side of New Orleans.
Rainfall totals could reach 30 inches in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Sally will then crawl inland over Alabama and Georgia.
Atlanta could see 6 to 12 inches of rain by the end of the week.
Florida police on Tuesday began closing the Pensacola Bay Bridge, which connects Pensacola with Pensacola Beach.
“We urge you to stay home and off the roadways if you can,” Pensacola police said.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey ordered beaches closed Monday afternoon and said she was “recommending an evacuation, especially of non-residents, and those living in flood-prone areas south of I-10.”
“Sally is shaping up to be a very dangerous and historic flooding event,” Brian Hastings, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday. “If you are in a low-lying area or a flood-prone area, get to a safer place.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said residents outside the levee protection system must evacuate.
In Hancock County, Mississippi, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for low-lying areas.
In Biloxi, Mississippi, casino resorts were ordered to close.
“We have two concerns,” Biloxi Mayor Andrew Gilich said Monday. “First, that our residents are taking this seriously and have made preparations, and second, that this is a slow-moving storm, which means we’ll see heavy flooding along the front beach and in low-lying areas, especially along the rivers and Bay.”
“Residents need to have a plan and follow that plan,” he said.
Sally is the seventh hurricane so far this season; the average at this time is six.
Sally will be third hurricane making landfall along the Gulf Coast this season.
The storm will also be the fourth hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. this season. The last time the nation had more than four hurricanes to make landfall was in 2005 when there were five, including Hurricane Katrina.
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