Hurricane Sally Weakens, Slows and Changes Course

hurricane sally noaa
Cloud bands along the periphery of Hurricane Sally, September 15 (NOAA)

Published Sep 15, 2020 9:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hurricane Sally is weakening as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast, and its track has shifted further eastward. It is now expected to make landfall along the coastline of Alabama or the western Florida Panhandle - more than 100 nm to the east of earlier estimates. 

The storm's winds have moderated to 70 knots and its eyewall has deteriorated due to westerly wind shear. However, it remains dangerous, as it will bring heavy rains and storm surge to a wide swath of coastline along the north central Gulf region. 

Sally has also slowed dramatically, according to the NHC, and it is now drifting gradually northwards at about two knots. This rate of advance will give the storm a long time to deposit heavy rains, and it is likely to generate a "historical rainfall event" and "historic life-threatening flash flooding" along the central Gulf Coast. Some flooding is also expected in inland Mississippi and Alabama. 

According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Hurricane Response Team, about 150 production platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (a quarter of the total) have been shut down and evacuated. Three moored rigs have also been evacuated, and two DP rigs have moved out of position away from the storm. The shutdowns affect about a quarter of U.S. GoM oil and gas production. 

Hurricane warnings and watches have been lifted for the Louisiana coastline, including Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed relief that the storm's intensity and effects were not as significant as expected. “All in all, we’ll take the storm as she is, rather than the one that was forecast a couple of days ago,” he said at a press conference Tuesday.