FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) - Hurricane Sally rapidly intensified Monday afternoon. Blooming into a strong category 1 hurricane and now Sally is expected to get stronger.
The National Hurricane Center predicts Sally will reach Category 2 status before making landfall on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning somewhere along the central Gulf coast. The image below shows Sally’s stats and projected track as of 1 p.m. Monday.
Go back and look at the graphic above and notice the movement of the storm. The hurricane, as of 1 p.m., was moving to the west-northwest at seven miles per hour. So Sally is crawling. Crawling over some very warm Gulf waters. Sally’s strong winds are pushing water toward the central Gulf coast but we must also pay attention to the barometric pressure of the storm.
When the pressure of the storm drops one millibar, the ocean water rises about a four-tenths of an inch. Sally’s pressure is expected to drop as the storm becomes a category two hurricane just off shore. This will cause the ocean levels to rise and bring a storm surge to the central gulf coast will exceed 9-feet and might reach as high as 11-feet.
The areas shaded in white on the above map are levee protected areas. It is the low-lying unprotected areas that could bear the brunt of the storm surge. Storm surge can sometimes cause more damage in a hurricane than wind.
Speaking of wind. There will be plenty of it. I dipped into our catalog of tropical graphics that sometimes we don’t have time to show on air. So, I thought I would show a few here to dig a little deeper into Hurricane Sally. First up, is a graphic that shows predicted surface winds for select locations as Sally makes landfall. Again, these are sustained surface winds and not wind gusts.
Check out Foley, Alabama. The wind data there reaches category two strength early Wednesday morning. This data is derived from our in-house GRAF model. GRAF stands for Global High Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System. This is a high precision, rapidly updating global weather model that uses high resolution weather data.
The GRAF shows the eye of Sally closer to Foley. That’s a little farther east than the NHC and it’s a good reminder of why many areas along coastlines will watch storms carefully. Here is another graphic that shows where and when hurricane storm threats may arrive. First up, damaging winds.
Judging by the above graphic many areas along the Gulf coast will experience at least tropical storm force winds if not hurricane force winds. But remember the storm is moving and the pressure is still likely to drop. This will bring the potential for heavy rain and a storm surge that should combine to bring a very high threat of flooding to Mobile and Pensacola. Especially Pensacola where the threat is higher than our color table goes. You can see that on this graphic.
So how much rain are we talking about? A lot. In some cases the rainfall may approach two feet. That’s the direction the in-house models are pointing and it’s very possible as of Monday afternoon.
Yes, you didn’t read that wrong. Gulf Shores could pick up nearly two feet of rain. So while Sally may not be packing a lot of wind, the hardest punch might come in the form of storm surge and rainfall.
Sally is just part of a historic string of on-going storms. There are currently five named storms simultaneously in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. That hasn’t happened since 1971 and one more fact before we wrap up this blog. The next named storm will be Wilfred. If we have another named storm after Wilfred the National Hurricane Center will start using the Greek alphabet. That has happened only one other time, back in 2005 when we made it all the way to Zeta before hurricane season ended.