NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Tropical Storm Sally, the earliest S-named storm on record in the Atlantic, is expected to slow down over the Gulf of Mexico on Monday evening before strengthening into a hurricane Tuesday with life-threatening storm surge along the Gulf Coast, including metropolitan New Orleans.
Sally is forecast to make landfall early Tuesday near the Louisiana-Mississippi line. The system is expected to gain strength while also slowing down late Monday and into Tuesday. Turning north as it slows, Sally is forecast to affect the southeast Louisiana and Mississippi coast Monday night into Wednesday.
Heavy rainfall and flooding, life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds are predicted as the system reaches the coast, with 8 to 16 inches of rainfall expected, including isolated amounts of 24 inches over portions of the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana until mid-week. Life-threatening flash flooding is possible.
Sally was one of seven disturbances being tracked by the National Hurricane Center in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as of Monday morning.
Hurricane Center forecasters warned that Sally poses a dangerous threat to much of the northern Gulf Coast because of the expectation it will slow with heavy rainfall while gaining force over the next day before making landfall.
As of 7 a.m. Monday, Sally was roughly 115 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and about 165 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.
Maximum winds are near 65 mph with higher gusts. The storm is expected to strengthen and become a hurricane with winds of at least 85 mph, which would make it a Category 1 storm, by Monday night. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward from the center of the storm for up to 125 miles.
A storm surge warning is in effect for Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to the Mississippi-Alabama border and for lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas, an area that includes metro New Orleans.
A hurricane watch is in effect from the Mississippi-Alabama border to the Alabama-Florida border.
Sally is expected to turn inland early Wednesday and track into southeast Louisiana with possible rainfall of 6 to 12 inches across portions of Mississippi and Alabama. Forecasters warned of the likelihood of significant flash and urban flooding, as well as minor to moderate flooding on some rivers. Heavy rain is expected to continue on into Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina later in the week.
Of the weather disturbances being tracked by the National Hurricane Center on Monday, only Sally poses an immediate threat to the Gulf Coast. Tropical Storm Teddy and Tropical Depression 21 formed in the Atlantic early Monday. Forecasters are also tracking Hurricane Paulette and Tropical Depression Rene.