(NOAA)

Hurricane Sally Strengthening as Storm Heads Toward Gulf Coast

Hurricane Sally is expected to strengthen before hitting the Gulf Coast with life-threatening storm surge beginning tonight and Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Morgan City, La., to the Navarre, Fla., and at Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas including metropolitan New Orleans.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for east of of Navarre, Fla., to Indian Pass, Fla.

At 400 PM CDT (2100 UTC), the center of Hurricane Sally was located near latitude 28.8 North, longitude 87.4 West. Sally is moving toward the west-northwest near 6 mph (9 km/h), and this motion is expected to continue through tonight. A northward turn is expected by Tuesday, and a slow north-northeastward to northeastward motion is expected Tuesday night through Wednesday night. On the forecast track, the center of Sally will move near the coast of southeastern Louisiana tonight and Tuesday, and make landfall in the hurricane warning area on late Tuesday or Wednesday.

Data from reconnaissance aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 100 mph (155 km/h) with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast tonight and early Tuesday and Sally is expected to be a dangerous hurricane when it moves onshore along the north-central Gulf coast.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 km).

Sally is expected to be a slow moving system as it approaches land, producing 8 to 16 inches of rainfall with isolated amounts of 24 inches over portions of the central Gulf Coast from the western Florida Panhandle to far southeast Louisiana through the middle of the week. Life-threatening flash flooding is likely. In addition, this rainfall will likely lead to widespread minor to isolated major flooding on area rivers.

Sally is forecast to move farther inland early Wednesday and track across the Southeast producing rainfall of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches, across portions of eastern Mississippi, central Alabama, northern Georgia and the western Carolinas. Significant flash and urban flooding is likely, as well as widespread minor to moderate flooding on some rivers.

Read more at the National Hurricane Center

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