The second hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in less than three weeks is "every bit as bad as predicted," according to the Pensacola News Journal, whose hometown is swamped. Nearly three feet of water covers streets in downtown Pensacola, Fla., which endured hours of rain before and after Hurricane Sally made landfall early Wednesday, per WJXT. More than 18 inches of rain had fallen by 1am, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a flash flood emergency. Before 2am, the police department noted road issues were "too numerous to list." Escambia County authorities were undertaking water rescues in the Bristol Park area as of 9:15am. In neighboring Santa Rosa County, Public Safety Director Brad Baker warned that "if you are trapped in your house and the water is rising, please call 911."
The hurricane, downgraded to a Category 1, is moving at just 3mph, "or about as fast as a person can walk," per WJXT. "It's just a nightmare," says David Eversole, a National Weather Service forecaster in Mobile, Ala., which has also been hit hard. "It just keeps pounding and pounding and pounding the area with tropical rain and just powerful winds." At least 50 people were rescued from homes in Orange Beach, Ala., per WJXT. More than 500,000 customers are without power in Alabama and Florida alone, per CNN. The Hurricane Center warns "historic and catastrophic flooding is unfolding," with "widespread moderate to major river flooding" also expected. The storm is expected to move across southeastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through early Thursday. Some areas could see up to 35 inches of rain, per USA Today. (Read more hurricane stories.)