Sally set to become hurricane and threaten U.S. Gulf Coast

This satellite photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical Storm Sally, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, at 2050 GMT. Sally churned northward on Sunday, poised to turn into a hurricane and send a life-threatening storm surge along the northern Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA via AP)

WAVELAND, Miss. – Tropical Storm Sally slowed down Sunday as it churned northward toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, increasing the risk of heavy rain and dangerous storm surge before an expected strike as a Category 2 hurricane in southern Louisiana.

“I know for a lot of people this storm seemed to come out of nowhere,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We need everybody to pay attention to this storm. Let's take this one seriously.”

Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sally is expected to become a hurricane on Monday and reach shore by early Tuesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions, including risk of flooding, to a region stretching from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Edwards urged people to prepare for the storm immediately. He also said there are still many from southwestern Louisiana who evacuated from Hurricane Laura into New Orleans — exactly the area that could be hit by Sally, which is a slow moving storm.

“Based on all of the available information, we have every reason to believe this storm represents a significant threat,” he said, adding that the coronavirus adds a layer of complexity to storm preparations.

There are still some 5,400 members of the state's National Guard mobilized from Laura, and they will assist with Sally.

In Mandeville, a city about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of New Orleans, resident Chris Yandle has purchased a week’s worth of groceries and moved all his patio furniture into his family’s house and shed in preparation for the storm.

“I’m mostly trying to stay calm — especially with a family of four and a dog to worry about,” Yandle said. “I’ve lived through many hurricanes growing up in Louisiana, but I haven’t felt this anxious about a hurricane in my life.”