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Gulf Coast Residents Brace for Possible New Hurricane

September 14, 2020

WAVELAND, Miss. — Storm-weary Gulf Coast residents prepared for a new weather onslaught Monday as Tropical Storm Sally churned northward.

Jeffrey Gagnard of Chalmette, Louisiana, was spending Sunday in Mississippi helping his parents prepare their home for Sally — and making sure they safely evacuated ahead of the storm.

"I mean, after Katrina, anything around here and anything on the water, you're going to take serious," he said, as he loaded the back of his SUV with cases of bottled water in a grocery store parking lot in Waveland, Mississippi. "You can't take anything lightly."

Gagnard said he planned to head back across the state line to prepare his own home for winds and rain Sally was expected to bring to the New Orleans area.

Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sally is expected to become a hurricane on Monday and reach shore by early Tuesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions, including risk of flooding, to a region stretching from the western Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.

"I know for a lot of people this storm seemed to come out of nowhere," said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. "We need everybody to pay attention to this storm. Let's take this one seriously."

Edwards urged people to prepare for the storm immediately. He also said there are still many from southwestern Louisiana who evacuated from Hurricane Laura into New Orleans — exactly the area that could be hit by Sally, which is a slow-moving storm.

In Mandeville, a city about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of New Orleans, resident Chris Yandle has purchased a week's worth of groceries and moved all his patio furniture into his family's house and shed in preparation for the storm.

"I'm mostly trying to stay calm — especially with a family of four and a dog to worry about," Yandle said. "I've lived through many hurricanes growing up in Louisiana, but I haven't felt this anxious about a hurricane in my life."

Mississippi officials warned that the storm was expected to coincide with high tide, leading to significant storm surge.

"It needs to be understood by all of our friends in the coastal region and in south Mississippi that if you live in low-lying areas, the time to get out is early tomorrow morning," Gov. Tate Reeves said late Sunday.

In Waveland, Mississippi, Joey Chauvin used rope to tie down a tall wooden post topped with a statue of a pelican serving as a marker at the driveway leading to his weekend camp. He said a matching pelican marker on the opposite side of the driveway was washed away in Tropical Storm Cristobal earlier this summer. That storm pushed more than 3 feet (1 meter) of water into the area. 

"If this one hits the coast as a Cat 2, I'm thinking we're gonna have at least six to seven feet of water where we're standing at," Chauvin said. "So, yeah, we're definitely not going to stay."

The system was moving west-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph) Monday morning. It was centered 120 miles (195 kilometers) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, and 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi. On Sunday, Florida's Gulf Coast was battered with windy, wet weather.

Pensacola, on Florida's Panhandle, was bracing for 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain.

Sally could produce rain totals up to 24 inches (61 centimeters) by the middle of the week, forecasters said. Its maximum sustained winds Monday morning were 60 mph (95 kph).

"That system is forecast to bring not only damaging winds but a dangerous storm surge," said Daniel Brown of the Hurricane Center. "Because it's slowing down it could produce a tremendous amount of rainfall over the coming days."

This isn't the only storm in the Atlantic basin. Paulette gained hurricane status late Saturday and was expected to bring storm surge, coastal flooding and high winds to Bermuda, according to a U.S. National Hurricane Center advisory. Once a tropical storm, Rene was forecast to become a remnant low Monday. Tropical Depression Twenty strengthened into Tropical Storm Teddy on Monday morning, and was expected to become a hurricane later in the week, forecasters said. And, Tropical Depression Twenty-One formed Monday in the eastern portion of the Atlantic Ocean.

A mandatory evacuation has already been issued in Grand Isle, Louisiana, ahead of the storm. On Saturday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation order for Orleans Parish residents living outside of the parish's levee protection system.

All northern Gulf Coast states are urging residents to prepare.

"It is likely that this storm system will be impacting Alabama's Gulf Coast. While it is currently not being predicted as a direct hit to our coastal areas, we know well that we should not take the threat lightly," said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. She urged residents to prepare and stay informed of the storm's path in the coming days.

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