FIRST ALERT FORECAST: Sally slowly approaches coast; fall cool front on the way next week

NHC monitoring several other tropical systems

FIRST ALERT FORECAST: Tuesday, Sept. 15 - 10 p.m.



Hurricane conditions are expected to reach portions of the north-central Gulf Coast later tonight and early Wednesday. Historic, life-threatening flooding is likely along portions of the northern Gulf Coast.

LOCATION: 29.8 N 87.8 W, about 65 miles south-southeast of Mobile, Ala. and about 60 miles southwest of Pensacola, Fla.


PRESENT MOVEMENT: North-northeast at 2 mph


At 10 p.m., the center of Hurricane Sally was located near latitude 29.8 North, longitude 87.8 West. Sally is moving toward the north-northeast near 2 mph (4 km/h). A north-northeastward to northeastward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected on Wednesday and Wednesday night, followed by a faster northeastward motion on Thursday. On the forecast track, the center of Sally will approach the northern Gulf Coast tonight, and make landfall in the hurricane warning area early Wednesday. Sally is expected to move inland across southeastern Alabama Wednesday night and Thursday. Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph (140 km/h) with higher gusts. Some strengthening is possible before landfall, 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 40 miles (65 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 km).

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast track has Sally continuing a slow northward movement through the night, with the storm making landfall near or just east of Mobile Bay Wednesday morning. Storm surge is expected to run from 4′ to 6′ near the landfall area and eastward to the Alabama/Florida state line.

Tracking Hurricane Sally
Tracking Hurricane Sally (Source: WAFB)

After landfall, Sally is expected to slowly accelerate to the northeast through Alabama, moving into western Georgia Thursday afternoon.

Louisiana has been spared from the tropical winds and rains that were in the forecast just a few days ago, but there are still some minor storm surge issues for portions of St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, as well as the inland tidal lakes (Pontchartrain and Maurepas). Water levels have already risen as much as 6′ at Shell Beach, with rises of 3′ or more along sections of Lake Pontchartrain. Modest rises of 1′ to possibly 3′ are possible in Lake Maurepas before water levels around the region begin to fall.

Hurricane Sally storm surge forecast
Hurricane Sally storm surge forecast (Source: WAFB)


In addition to Sally, the NHC is also monitoring an area of low pressure in the western/southwestern Gulf that’s expected to meander there for several days to come. While development chances over the next three to five days are low according to the NHC, anything in the Gulf at this time of year deserves attention. Let’s see how this disorganized system looks by the weekend.

Low pressure system in Gulf of Mexico
Low pressure system in Gulf of Mexico (Source: WAFB)

In the open Atlantic, Category 2 Paulette, along with tropical storms Teddy and Vicky, are joined by Invest 98L in the eastern tropical Atlantic and Invest 99L located northeast of the Azores. While development chances for 99L are low, 98L appears destined to become Wilfred in the next five to seven days, taking the last name on the 2020 tropical list before we move into the Greek alphabet.

Action in the Atlantic
Action in the Atlantic (Source: WAFB)


Even with Sally moving farther to the east, WAFB communities can expect another breezy afternoon Wednesday, with a few rain bands possible during the day. All in all however, Wednesday’s weather will not be a problem; expect partly cloudy skies and only a 20% to 30% chance of a passing shower for your backyard. The morning starts in the mid 70°s, with afternoon highs in the upper 80°s to near 90°, along with afternoon winds out of the north at 10 to 15 mph.

Wednesday pinpoint forecast
Wednesday pinpoint forecast (Source: WAFB)

The news only gets better for the rest of the week. The First Alert Forecast is calling for only spotty to isolated showers, at best, for Thursday and Friday, followed by an essentially dry weekend. Highs Thursday will be in the upper 80°s to around 90°, with highs Friday in the mid to upper 80°s.

A cool front is expected to slip through the state from late Friday into early Saturday, resulting in a nice drop in the humidity and providing a modest dip in area temperatures too. Morning lows will be in the 60°s Saturday and Sunday, with afternoon highs both days in the mid to upper 80°s.

The autumn solstice (the astronomical start of fall) arrives Tuesday, Sept. 22, and the forecast for next week delivers a welcome run of fall-like weather. Rain chances are set at 20% or less from Monday through Friday, with morning starts in the 60°s and afternoon highs in the 80°s.

10-day forecast
10-day forecast (Source: WAFB)

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