Hurricane Sally, a slow but powerful storm with 85 mph winds, crawled toward the northern Gulf Coast early Tuesday, and forecasters warned of life-threatening storm surges, flash flooding brought on by up to 2 feet of rain, and the possibility of tornadoes.

The hurricane warnings have been replaced by a tropical storm warning from the mouth of the Pearl River westward to Grand Isle, Louisiana, including New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center said. A tropical storm warning west of Grand Isle has been suspended.

Hurricane warnings had spread from Grand Isle to Navarre, Florida, but forecasters, while emphasizing « significant » uncertainty, continued to push the expected path east.

That eased fears in New Orleans, which was once in the crosshairs of the storm. But it led Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to declare an emergency in the westernmost counties of the peninsula, which were being battered by rain from Sally’s outer bands early Tuesday morning. The threat of heavy rain and storm surge was compounded by the slow movement of the storm.

President Trump issued emergency statements for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday, and on Twitter urged residents to listen to state and local leaders.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey requested presidential statement after the National Weather Service in Mobile warned of the increasing likelihood of « dangerous and potentially historic flooding, » with waters rising up to 9 feet above the ground in parts of the area. Metropolitan of Mobile.

It all seemed like a distant threat Monday afternoon in Waveland, Miss., When Trevor Claunch, barefoot and shirtless, from nearby St. Louis Bay, hit the beach last minute. But there were signs that trouble was coming. Claunch marveled at how the waters of the Gulf had already washed over strips of sandy shoreline and infiltrated bike lanes and parking lots.

« No rain, and it’s already all the way up, I honestly want to stay and see where it goes, » Claunch said.

But he was not risking it.

« We’re going inland, » he said.

Others were taking the storm seriously as well, despite the sunny skies. The coastal casinos were closed by order of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Meanwhile, motorists filled the parking lot of a convenience store in Ocean Springs, Miss., While filling up gas tanks and stocking up on ice, beer and snacks.

“It is second nature to us. It would have been done by now, but it had to work, ”Zale Stratakos said as he helped his mother, Kimberly Stratakos, fill three plastic gasoline cans.

Sally reached hurricane strength Monday and quickly escalated to a Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds. By early Tuesday morning, the storm’s maximum sustained winds had decreased to 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm. Wind speeds were further reduced to 85 miles per hour at 5 a.m. from the east, but forecasters say a boost is expected late Tuesday.

The storm was located 115 miles south-southeast of Biloxi, Miss., And 60 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving at only 2 miles per hour.

Forecasters expect the storm to turn north Tuesday afternoon and drift slowly north-northeast from Tuesday night through Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center said early Tuesday that the center of the hurricane would move near the coast of southeastern Louisiana later that day.

Forecasters expect winds to pick up to 110 mph over the warm Gulf waters before the storm makes landfall. On the current track, the storm is forecast to make landfall near the Alabama-Mississippi state line on Tuesday night or early Wednesday.

The threat to Louisiana appeared to be waning, but flood control authorities remained on their guard, closing gates along waterway networks that could be pushed over their banks.

The southwestern part of the state was hit by Hurricane Laura on August 27, and an estimated 2,000 evacuees from that storm took refuge in New Orleans, mostly in hotels.

Monday marked only the second time on record, forecasters said, that five tropical cyclones swirled simultaneously in the Atlantic basin. The last time it happened was in 1971. None of the others were expected to threaten the United States this week, if at all, and one was demoted to a pressure low on Monday night.

The extraordinarily busy hurricane season, like the catastrophic wildfire season on the West Coast, has drawn attention to the role of climate change.

Scientists say that global warming is making the strongest hurricanes, those with wind speeds of 110 mph or more, even stronger. In addition, warmer air holds more moisture, making storms rainier, and rising sea levels due to global warming make storm surge higher and more damaging.

Also, scientists have seen tropical storms and hurricanes slow down once they hit the United States by about 17% since 1900, and that gives them a chance to dump more rain in one place, like Hurricane Harvey did. in Houston in 2017.