Hurricane Sally Devastates Southeastern US

By John Velasquez

In mid-September, Hurricane Sally, a Category 2 hurricane (96-110 mph), made landfall through parts of Alabama and Florida. Hundreds of people near the Florida-Alabama border, in the Pensacola area, had to be rescued because of the hurricane; authorities predict a lot more will be in danger in the following days. 


A hurricane, also called a tropical storm, is a violent and rapidly rotating storm that forms in the Carribean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or Atlantic Ocean. Once tropical storms have a speed of 74 miles per hour, it becomes a hurricane. There are three ingredients in the formation of a hurricane: a sea surface temperature of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit, an area of low pressure or pre-existing spin, and light vertical wind shear. Hurricanes form when the warm, moist air over the water begins to ascend. Then cooler air replaces the rising air, resulting in large clouds and thunderstorms. The thunderstorms then start rotating and growing, resulting in a tropical storm or hurricane.


Sally’s landfall in parts of Alabama and Florida was unexpected. Sally was expected to hit Louisiana, then Mississippi, and finally Alabama. As a Category 2 hurricane, Sally eventually weakened to a tropical depression (38 mph). According to the chief of the Pensacola Fire Department, Ginny Cranor, “We had 30 inches of rain in Pensacola … which is four months of rain in four hours.” Parts of Alabama and Florida were submerged by the flooding. Trees fell, power lines destroyed, boats torn from their moorings, streets were flooded, and buildings and homes destroyed. As a result, to keep residents safe, numerous counties were under curfews. Sally is so powerful, it slammed a barge onto a structure called the Three Mile Bridge and tore a portion of the bridge off.


According to a report from the Power, 500,000 customers in Alabama and Florida have had their power knocked out. Hence, residents are using their generators. However, it is tricky to use: last month during Hurricane Laura, seven people died from carbon monoxide poisoning from using a generator. Central Alabama and central Georgia might eventually have 4 to 12 inches of rain - with a possibility of significant flash flooding happening. A flash flood is a sudden local flood. In addition, parts of North and South Carolina might receive 4 to 9 inches of rain. Sally is the fourth hurricane this year to make landfall - the most in a year since 2004. Also, Hurricane Ivan struck on the same day, 16 years ago, on roughly the same areas.


On average, each year, six hurricanes form from ten tropical storms near the U.S. However, many of them stay in the oceans. About five hurricanes make landfall on the coasts of the U.S. every three years. Hurricanes usually form between June 1 and November 30. According to the Congressional Budget Office, hurricanes cause about $54 billion each year.