“We’re talking about (potentially) a historic rainfall event” Tuesday through at least Wednesday, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham told CNN Tuesday morning.
Sally’s center may not move over land until Wednesday morning, perhaps near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, forecasters said. Its slow movement should allow huge amounts of rain to pile up even ahead of landfall.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, through just east of Pensacola, Florida — including all of coastal Alabama and the city of Mobile.
Hurricane conditions could arrive in the warning area starting Tuesday afternoon or night, forecasters say.
Outer bands already were hitting parts of coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with rain early Tuesday.
Some of the storm’s main threats, forecasters say:
• Heavy rain and dangerous flash flooding. About 10 to 30 inches of rain are possible by storm’s end in southeastern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.
Flash flooding is possible even well inland, Graham said. About 6 to 10 inches of rain could fall in parts of inland Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina though Saturday.
• Tornadoes. They are possible through Wednesday, especially in parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, forecasters say.
Katrina survivor prepares for Sally
As the storm approached Monday, Mississippian Mike Taylor prepared by filling and placing sandbags around his house in Long Beach, near Gulfport, to keep water out.
“Just got to prepare. That’s all we can do,” Taylor said.
Taylor isn’t nervous about Hurricane Sally because he believes he has already experienced a worse storm, he said.
His 8-year-old nephew is not as confident. As he helped Taylor fill sandbags, he told CNN he’s worried.
“I’m very nervous. The storm is coming at night and the wind can blow your house down,” the boy said.
A lifelong Gulf Coast resident, 35-year-old Robert Higdon also filled sandbags in the Gulfport area ahead of the storm’s arrival. He said he is not terribly concerned about this hurricane but knows it’s best to “prepare for the unexpected.”
“I’d rather be prepared for the unexpected,” Higdon said. “If it’s a Category 2 or below we just bunker down. A lot of people are willing to ride it out.”
Residents and visitors get ready in Alabama
In Bayou La Batre, a coastal Alabama town just southwest of Mobile, Ian Fields on Monday secured his boat on the bayou where he and his family plan to ride out the storm.
Fields has ridden out past storms, though he has a backup plan just in case his family needs to leave this time, he said.
“I’m just waiting for it to come and go,” he told the station.
“We had booked a home to go to in Mobile, and they just called and said that a tree fell through the house, so right now we’re trying to find other accommodations,” he said.
Evacuations ordered along the coast
Residents in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, St. Charles Parish and parts of Jefferson Parish have been told to evacuate as flooding and storm surge are expected in those areas.
Flights canceled ahead of the storm
Airports in at least two states have announced flight cancellations due to the storm.
Pensacola International Airport in Florida is closed and Alabama’s Mobile Regional Airport has canceled all flights ahead of Hurricane Sally.
American Airlines reported that it is “closely monitoring” the hurricane’s track and has waived change fees for passengers who opt not to fly because of the storm.
United and Delta also said they will allow passengers to reschedule their flights due to the hurricane.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera reported from Gulfport; Jason Hanna and Hollie Silverman wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Ashley Killough, Michelle Krupa and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.