Mike Evans, deputy director with the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency, provides an update on preparations ahead of Hurricane Sally’s arrival during a news conference on Monday, September 14, 2020, at Government Plaza in downtown Mobile, Ala. (John Sharp/[email protected]).
Hurricane Sally is drawing similarities in coastal Alabama to Hurricane Danny, which walloped the Alabama Gulf Coast 23 years ago with torrential downpours and dumping over 36 inches of rain onto Dauphin Island.
But Mike Evans, deputy director with the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency, is urging residents in Alabama’s Gulf Coast not to “get into the numbers” game ahead of Sally’s arrival, and not to compare this storm with previous tropical events.
“All of these storms are dangerous,” said Evans, during a news conference Monday at Government Plaza in downtown Mobile. Hurricane Sally was upgraded to a Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds as it continues to intensify in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I wouldn’t get into the game of saying, ‘we lived through Frederic in ’79, and this won’t be so bad,’” said Evans, adding that similar comparisons occurred by Mississippi residents ahead of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, before the devastating storm slammed into the Gulf Coast causing widespread devastation and killing over 1,800 people.
Evans and other officials in Mobile and Baldwin counties, however, said they were unsure of what kind of impact Sally would bring. The storm is a slow-mover and is not expected to make landfall until Tuesday night or early Wednesday. The coastal areas of Mobile and Baldwin counties are expected to get 15-20 inches of rain, with 10-15 inches expected inland within the two counties.
Also unknown is the storm surge that Sally could bring to the coastal areas. Evans said that surge estimates have inched upward throughout the day, and are at 7 feet.
Evans urged people living in flood-prone areas to evacuate to somewhere that is safer, though he encouraged people to consider somewhere other than one of the county’s two storm shelters. Given concerns with coronavirus, Evans said that evacuees should encourage people to go to a “safer place.” Theodore High School and Burns Middle School are considered evacuation shelters of “last resort.” Baldwin County has not opened its emergency shelter in Robertsdale.
Evans and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson both urged residents not to sight-see storm damaged areas after Hurricane Sally pushes through the coastal area at some point on Wednesday.
“The most dangerous point could be after the storm passes,” Stimpson said. “If you drive around and see downed power lines, please take all precautions as possible. Do not get out too soon (after) the storm.”
Mobile does not have a night-time curfew in place, but Stimpson said that “is an option” if necessary.
Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said he was not anticipating a curfew being in effect on Monday night, but was contemplating one for Tuesday and Wednesday. He said the curfew would, if implemented, run overnight starting at 9 p.m.
“It’s going to be dangerous for anyone to be on the road, including county services,” said Zach Hood, director of the Baldwin County Emergency Agency.
RELATED: ‘A sandbag is all that will save me’: Coastal Alabama city, residents prep for flooding from Sally
Non-essential employees in both Mobile and Baldwin counties have been told to stay home on Tuesday.
Mack said that emergency workers were preparing for flooding, calling Hurricane Sally a “major water event.” He said that county officials were keeping an eye on the western side of Baldwin County as well as flood-prone areas along Fish River, the Marlow community and Magnolia Springs. The Spanish Fort Causeway, which often floods during tropical storms, is likely to shut down, Mack said.
Evans, in Mobile, said that residents need to finalize their precautions on Monday. He also encouraged people who need sandbags to get them from a number of home improvement stores within the region.
No mandatory evacuations have been announced as of Monday afternoon, though Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey closed the state’s beaches ahead of the storm’s arrival.
Stimpson said residents need to be aware of the possible surge in vehicular traffic if an evacuation order occurs.
“Most of the traffic is heading through Mobile and we can expect a lot of traffic coming through the city especially if (Ivey) issues a mandatory evacuation for Gulf Shores,” he said.
Evans said there is simply “too much uncertainty” about the storm to say how it will affect the two counties.
“Could that storm come closer to us? Absolutely,” he said. “Uncertainty means that now is the time to be prepared while we still have the time.”
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