MIAMI (AP) — Forecasters say Hurricane Sally has become a little stronger as it crawls closer to the northern U.S. Gulf Coast.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 8 p.m. Tuesday that Sally’s top sustained winds had risen from 80 mph (128 kph) to near 85 mph (140 kph) as it lumbered offshore.
Forecasters said Sally could strengthen some more before its center reaches the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
The storm was last centered about 70 miles (115 kilometers) south of Mobile, Alabama, and virtually the same distance southwest of Pensacola, Florida. It’s moving to the north toward the coast at 2 mph (4 kph).
Water has begun flowing down a street in Pensacola on the Florida Panhandle as Sally drenches the region with heavy rains.
Rain also began flying sideways in the wind Tuesday night, visible in streetlights, in the panhandle community.
The National Hurricane Center said tropical force winds were spreading onto the coast after nightfall amid the threat of historic, life-threatening flooding.
Gusting winds and heavy rains buffeted trees and street lamps elsewhere in the south Alabama city of Mobile.
And in Gulf Shores, a coastal town in Alabama, authorities closed the main road into town from inland areas that commonly flood from major storms. Gulf Shores also shut down much of the main beachfront road in the town of about 12,500, which hours earlier had been busy with tourist traffic.
Gulf Shores and a nearby Alabama coastal community, Orange Beach, instituted overnight curfews citing life-threatening conditions.
Forecasters say Hurricane Sally could dump flooding rains on a path from Mississippi to the Carolinas this week after the storm makes landfall on the Gulf Coast.
The National Weather Service says after the storm comes inland Wednesday, rainfall of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) is likely across portions of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Significant flash flooding and minor to moderate river flooding is expected through the end of the week, and rainfall could reach 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) in isolated inland areas.
Hurricane Sally was creeping at 2 mph Tuesday toward the Gulf Coast morning, with landfall near the Mississippi-Alabama state line expected late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The storm was forecast to reach land as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (137 kph). Sally was expected to weaken rapidly after coming ashore.
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