GULF SHORES, Ala., Sept. 17 (Reuters) — The remnants of Hurricane Sally on Thursday brought more than a foot of rain to Florida and Georgia, killing at least one person, washing out bridges and roads and leaving hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power.
Sally's torrential rains spread from eastern Alabama to central Georgia and the storm, now a tropical depression, was about 50 miles southeast of Montgomery, Alabama early Thursday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It struck Gulf Shores, Alabama, a day earlier with winds clocked at 105 mph.
The storm killed one person in coastal Alabama and another was reported missing.
Some areas were inundated with more than two feet of rain. Pensacola, Florida, east of the storm's landfall, experienced up to 5 feet of flooding, and travel across the region was limited by damaged roads and bridges. Almost 500,000 homes and businesses in Alabama and Florida remained without power.
Waited to evacuate
Bill Moore, 47, hiked two miles from his home in Gulf Shores, Alabama, hoping to retrieve his car stashed inland, away from the coast. Winds tore through a hurricane shutter of his home and smashed one window and collapsed a rooftop sky light.
“It has been a long two days,” he said. “We were trying to evacuate on Tuesday, but it was too late."
Another resident, Toby Wallace, 49, said the storm surge brought 3 feet of water into his elevated home. "There is going to be a lot of cleaning," he said.
Democratic Party nominee for president Joe Biden offered prayers for residents, and called for a national response to climate change.
Utility crews and residents were at work along the Alabama and Florida coasts making repairs and clearing storm debris after Sally washed out roads and bridges and left dozens of boats pushed ashore.
Utilities began restoring power to Alabama and Florida with crews brought from other states. “This year we’ve just got hurricane after hurricane,” said Matt Lane, 23, a member of a crew from New Hampshire Electric Coop who arrived late on Tuesday from Hurricane Laura recovery efforts in Texas.
Another storm brewing
Sally was the 18th named storm in the Atlantic this year and the eighth of tropical storm or hurricane strength to hit the United States.
A tropical disturbance brewed in the southern Gulf of Mexico on Thursday that has a 90% chance of becoming a cyclone in the next 48 hours. Two other named storms were in the Atlantic, making it one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.
Hurricanes have increased in intensity and destructiveness since the 1980s as the climate has warmed, according to researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Energy companies were returning Gulf of Mexico offshore oil crews and assessing damages to coastal facilities. Several said their facilities weathered the storm and were preparing to restart.
(Reporting by Devika Krishna-Kumar and Catherine Koppel in Mobile, Alabama; Additional reporting by Jennifer Hiller in Houston and Stephanie Kelly and Scott DiSavino in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)