Sally weakens to tropical depression, leaves massive floods on U.S. Gulf Coast

Former-hurricane Sally moved northeast on Thursday, where it was expected to bring more than 300 millimetres of rain to some areas, one day after it flooded streets and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Sally made landfall early on Wednesday near Gulf Shores in Alabama, with winds clocked at 169 km/h, making it a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity.

As of late Wednesday, it was moving north at 19 km/h after being downgraded to a tropical depression, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, with maximum winds of 50 km/h.

The storm is believed to have killed one person in Alabama.

“We had a body wash up. We believe it was hurricane-related, but we have no definitive proof of that right now,” said Trent Johnson, a police lieutenant in Orange Beach, Ala.

Some parts of the coast were inundated with more than 600 millimetres (two feet) of rain, as the slow-moving storm flooded communities. The coastal city of Pensacola, Fla., experienced up to 1.5 metres of flooding, and travel was cut by damaged roads and bridges. More than 570,000 homes and businesses across the area were without power.

Several residents along the Alabama and Florida coasts said damage from the storm caught them off guard. By late Wednesday, the floodwaters had started to recede in some areas, though the National Weather Service warned that extensive river flooding would be a concern through the weekend.

WATCH | Florida, Alabama face heavy flooding, wind damage from Hurricane Sally:

Up to a metre of water was recorded in Pensacola, Fla., as the lumbering storm kept pounding the area with heavy rain. 1:03

“It was just constant rain and wind,” said Preity Patel, 41, a resident of Pensacola for two years. “The water drained pretty quickly, thankfully. “It’s just cleanup now.”

The Pensacola Bay Bridge, known also as the Three Mile Bridge, was missing a “significant section,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference.

Electrical crews from other states arrived in Pensacola as utilities began restoring power to Alabama and Florida, according to local utilities.

“This year we’ve just got hurricane after hurricane,” said Matt Lane, 23, a member of a crew from New Hampshire Electric Co-op, who arrived late on Tuesday directly from Hurricane Laura recovery efforts in Texas.

Sally was the 18th named storm in the Atlantic hurricane season this year and the eighth of tropical storm or hurricane strength to hit the United States. There are currently three other named storms in the Atlantic, making it one of the most active seasons on record.

A man, standing outside his home, watches a street flooded by Sally in Pensacola, Fla. The storm barrelled into the U.S. Gulf Coast early Wednesday, causing wide-spread destruction. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricanes have increased in intensity and destructiveness since the 1980s as the climate has warmed, according to researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sally shut more than a quarter of U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas production.

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