TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) — Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that Hurricane Sally, after bringing massive rains and storm surge in the western Panhandle early Wednesday, will continue to cause flooding for days.
“What will happen is as this storm continues to move past places like Pensacola and goes north, the water that it drops north of the Panhandle is also going to impact floods that could happen several days from now,” DeSantis said during an appearance Wednesday morning on the Weather Channel. “So, this is not something that’s just going to be a one- or two-day thing. People are going to have to be vigilant for several days.”
Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., as a Category 2 storm, with winds of 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Florida has activated 500 members of the Florida National Guard, and search and rescue crews were on standby as the slow-moving storm took an eastern turn early Wednesday and was on a track that would take it into southeastern Alabama and across Georgia.
DeSantis said he will tour areas affected by the storm after it passes.
“We want to make sure everyone’s getting what they need to get,” DeSantis said.
With 24 inches of rain in areas by Naval Air Station Pensacola, and storm surge reaching 5 ½ feet, downtown Pensacola was reportedly nearly submerged.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said more than 223,000 electric customers were without power in the western Panhandle, mostly in Escambia County.
An estimated 212,000 Gulf Power customers were reported without power, with another 278,000 electric customers out in Alabama, according to Poweroutage.us.
DeSantis said power crews on standby won’t be able to get into areas until the storm passes and waters subside, which could be ”hopefully as soon as tomorrow morning.”
State Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault extended a suspension of tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge until noon Friday. DeSantis lifted the tolls Tuesday on the bridge, which spans part of Pensacola Bay.
Public schools were closed Wednesday in Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington counties.
Chipola, Gulf Coast State, Northwest Florida State, and Pensacola State colleges were also closed Wednesday, as were the Panama City campus of Florida State University and the University of West Florida in Pensacola.
The state has also closed a number of parks for day use and overnight camping, including Big Lagoon, Blackwater River, Falling Waters, Florida Caverns, Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou, Grayton Beach, Henderson Beach, St. Andrews, T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula, Three Rivers, Topsail Hill Preserve, and Torreya.
Courts were closed Wednesday in Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Washington counties.