Hurricane Sally, one of four storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic, closed in on the Gulf Coast on Monday with rapidly strengthening winds of at least 100 mph (161 kph) and heavy rain as forecasters warned of "potentially historic" flooding and governors declared states of emergency.
The slow-moving storm was forecast to brush the southeastern tip of Louisiana and then blow ashore late Tuesday or early Wednesday near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, the National Hurricane Center said. Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Navarre, Florida.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, an action that authorizes federal emergency officials to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency assistance to the affected areas.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey asked the president to do the same for her state after the National Weather Service in Mobile warned of the increasing likelihood of "dangerous and potentially historic flooding." The weather service forecast that waters could rise as much as 9 feet (2.7 meters) above ground in large parts of the Mobile metro area. With a population of 400,000 people, it is among the largest metro areas along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Tampa, Florida. Some businesses in Mobile placed sandbags at their entrances in preparation.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the Panhandle's westernmost counties, Escambia and Santa Rosa as the hurricane's outer bands began to lash the area. All along the storm-weary Gulf Coast, residents rushed to buy bottled water and other supplies ahead of the hurricane, which powered up to a Category 2 in the afternoon. Forecasters said sustained winds could reach 110 mph (177 kph), just below Category 3 strength, by landfall.
In coastal Mississippi, water spilled onto roads, lawns and docks well before the storm's arrival. All 12 casinos were ordered to shut down Monday afternoon and Gov. Tate Reeves urged residents of low-lying areas to prepare to evacuate.
Reeves said Sally could dump up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain on the southern part of the state.
Sally has lots of company during what has become one of the busiest hurricane seasons in history — so busy that forecasters have almost run through the alphabet of names with 2 1/2 months still to go.
For only the second time on record, forecasters said, five tropical cyclones swirled simultaneously in the Atlantic basin at one point Monday. The last time that happened was in 1971.
In addition to Sally were Hurricane Paulette, which passed over a well-fortified Bermuda on Monday and was expected to peel harmlessly out into the North Atlantic; and Tropical Storms Rene, Teddy and Vicky, all of them out at sea and unlikely to threaten land this week, if at all. Rene was downgraded to a trough of low pressure Monday evening.
Associated Press reporters Rebecca Santana in New Orleans; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Emily Wagster Pettus and Leah Willingham, in Jackson, Mississippi; Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; and Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia, contributed to this report.