After lumbering ashore near the Florida-Alabama line Wednesday with 105 mph winds and rain measured in feet, not inches, Hurricane Sally swamped homes and forced the rescue of hundreds of people as it pushed inland for what could be a slow and disastrous drenching across the Deep South. It made landfall close to Gulf Shores, Alabama, then accelerated as it battered the Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama—metropolitan areas encompassing nearly 1 million people. The hurricane cast boats onto land or sank them at the dock, the AP reports, flattened palm trees, peeled away roofs, blew down signs and knocked out power to more than a 540,000 homes and businesses. A replica of Christopher Columbus' ship the Nina that had been docked at the Pensacola waterfront was missing, police said.
Sally tore loose a barge-mounted construction crane, which then smashed into the new Three Mile Bridge over Pensacola Bay, causing a section of the year-old span to collapse, authorities said. The storm ripped away a large section of a fishing pier at Alabama’s Gulf State Park on the very day a ribbon-cutting was scheduled following a $2.4 million renovation. By afternoon, Escambia County, which includes Pensacola, reported at least 377 people had been rescued from flooded areas. More than 40 people were brought to safety in a single hour, including a family of four found in a tree, the sheriff said. Some Pensacola streets became white-capped rivers; sodden debris and flooded cars were left behind as the water receded. By early afternoon, Sally had weakened into a tropical storm, with winds down to 70 mph. The storm was expected to generate heavy rain inland as it moved over Alabama and into Georgia.
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