PENSACOLA, Fla. – Part of bridge collapsed in Pensacola as 30 inches of rain and storm surge turned streets into white-capped rivers Wednesday morning after Hurricane Sally lurched ashore the Gulf Coast.
Sally's strong winds battered Alabama and Florida as the center moved over the Panhandle by afternoon. In Pensacola, Florida, a section of the Pensacola Bay Bridge collapsed, and downtown was largely underwater.
Flooding as the slow storm dumped intense rains has proven to be Sally's most serious danger: "Historic and catastrophic flooding, including widespread moderate to major river flooding, is unfolding," forecasters say.
Photos and video from coastal areas showed trees downed, debris and boats thrown about and streets flooded. Around 9 a.m. local time, a water level station in Pensacola reported inundation around 5.5 feet above sea level, the National Hurricane Center said.
Flash flooding emergencies were in effect and rescue efforts underway for parts of southeastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle as the storm could dump up to 35 inches of rain in isolated pockets.
Sally made landfall at 4:45 a.m. with winds of 105 mph near Gulf Shores, Alabama. The storm's center, picking up in speed at 5 mph as it moves north-northeast, will head across southeastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through early Thursday, and will weaken to a tropical depression by Thursday morning.
Some other major developments:
Sally is forecast to head inland Wednesday night across southeastern Alabama before reaching Georgia on Thursday and the Carolinas on Friday.
Around 10 to 20 inches of rain could be dumped on parts of Alabama and Florida, with isolated pockets getting up to 35 inches.
Sally is the eighth named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. this year — the most through Sept. 16 in recorded history.
More than 500,000 homes and businesses are without power, according to the utility tracker poweroutage.us.
Here's a look at the latest news with Hurricane Sally:
Section of Gulf State Park Pier destroyed
As Sally thrashed ashore near Gulf Shores, Alabama, the pier at Gulf State Park suffered significant damage, with the storm destroying large sections of the structure.
Montgomery resident Joe Whatley said friends sent photos from the scene showing much damage near the beach, with debris and a section of Gulf State Park Pier missing. Several boats were washed ashore.
"This whole earth and seas all belong to God," Whatley said. "He just lets us share them as long as we need to. If we’ve got to rebuild, we just rebuild and go on."
– Alesha Williams Boyd, Montgomery Advertiser