Meteorologists say Hurricane Sally rumbled across Baldwin County as a solid Category 2 hurricane, demonstrating how powerful a Category 2 storm can be.
“I think people get fixated on how much damage a 3, 4 or 5 can do and don’t really comprehend the power of a Category 2 storm,” said Cody Lindsey, National Weather Service meteorologist in Mobile. “These lower end storms can do significant damage.”
Hurricane Sally registered sustained winds at 105 mph and gusted above 100 miles per hour, a speed that gave the storm destructive force. Thick, giant trees were downed in every community across the county. Telephone poles were snapped in half. Buildings and homes were destroyed or even blown away in some of the county’s most southern neighborhoods.
Though many residents assumed tornadoes spun out by the storm caused the majority of damage, Lindsey said hurricane winds caused the bulk of the damage.
“We had four hours of the hurricane eye wall coming into Baldwin County with wind gusts over 100 mph. It was a very large area of winds moving very slowly,” he said. “All that wind damage is associated with the eye wall.”
The storm’s surge was highest in Pensacola at 5.60 feet. It is the third highest surge on record, behind levels brought by Hurricane Ivan and the hurricane of 1926.
Extreme amounts of rain, measuring nearly 30 inches in Orange Beach, also caused massive flash flooding.
2020 now marks one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, matching the number of storms seen in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Several converging factors such as warm ocean temperatures, favorable upper level winds and an active monsoon season on the African coast have led to the uptick in storms.
Hurricane season ends Nov. 30 and Lindsey said officials urge residents to prepare for more potential storms.
“We’re always encouraging folks to be ready ahead of time. It’s been so long since we’ve been through one and this was our first direct impact since Ivan,” Lindsey said. “So our constant message is to be prepared ahead of time.”
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