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Tropical Storm Sally brings heavy rains, flood watch to central Florida

As Sally moves away from the Florida peninsula, it could dump heavy rains from Sarasota to Pinellas County.

TAMPA — Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in effect in the northern Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Sally, one of seven storm systems now brewing in the Atlantic basin, continued to strengthen in warm waters off the southwest coast of Florida.

Tampa Bay forecasters warned that as Sally moves away from the Florida peninsula, its outer bands could dump heavy rains on the region this week, from Sarasota to Pinellas County. The heaviest rains will be confined to the coastline, but saturated grounds throughout the region could lead to flooding.

By 5 p.m. Sunday, the National Hurricane Center had also issued advisories on Hurricane Paulette in the western Atlantic, Tropical Depression Rene in the central Atlantic, and Tropical Depression 20 in the eastern tropical Atlantic.

Tropical Storm Sally was carrying sustained winds up to 60 mph Sunday evening and was expected grow into a hurricane — possibly a Category 2 — by the time it makes landfall late Monday or early Tuesday in southeast Louisiana.

The Tampa Bay region can expect cloudy skies, showers and a handful of thunderstorms to start the week. The slow-moving system was traveling at about 12 mph west-northwest about 115 miles off the coast of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service in Ruskin predicted Sally would keep that languid pace as it moved through the Gulf of Mexico and could likely slow more by Tuesday, causing the storm to turn towards the north-northwest.

That could lead to significant flash flooding near the central Gulf Coast through the middle of the week. Forecasters warned that flooding, especially alongside central Florida’s rivers, is highly likely. A flood watch was in effect through Sunday evening for areas including Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the Weather Service said.

Overall, Tropical Storm Sally is expected to dump up to one foot of rain over portions of the Central Gulf Coast between the western Florida Panhandle and southeastern corners of Louisiana by Wednesday.

Sally was forecast to travel across parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday and turn northeast toward Alabama on Thursday. If that holds, the storm’s outer bands will maintain a south to southwest flow across southwest and west central Florida even as the storm winds down and leaves the coast, forecasters said.

Elsewhere in the tropics, Hurricane Paulette began to make its presence known in Bermuda on Sunday, and Tropical Depression 20 was poised to become the 20th named storm of the season as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday.

Additionally, forecasters are watching three other areas: A weak area of low pressure in the west-central Gulf of Mexico has a 20 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next five days; an elongated area of low pressure located a couple of hundred miles west-northwest of the Cabo Verde Island may form into a short-lived tropical depression Monday; and a tropical wave is expected to move off the west coast of Africa Monday. Forecasters gave it 30 percent change of forming into a depression in the next week.

Additionally, forecasters are watching three other areas: A weak area of low pressure in the west-central Gulf of Mexico has a 20 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next five days; an elongated area of low pressure located a couple of hundred miles west-northwest of the Cabo Verde Island may form into a short-lived tropical depression Monday; and a tropical wave is expected to move off the west coast of Africa Monday. Forecasters gave it a 30 percent chance of forming into a depression in the next week.

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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE FOR COVID-19 AND THE STORM: The CDC's tips for this pandemic-hurricane season

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

Lessons from Hurricane Michael

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind

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