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Hurricane Sally could unleash torrential rain and significant storm surge on Mobile

Hurricane Sally is slowly making its way to the Gulf Coast Tuesday evening, with Alabama squarely in its path. The city of Mobile is on high alert for the possibility of torrential rainfall and a storm surge that is seven feet above normal. The city’s mayor, Sandy Stimpson, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he’s confident that local authorities are adequately prepared for the impending storm.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hurricane Sally is slowly making its way to the Gulf Coast tonight.

    And, as of now, Alabama is squarely in the path. The city of Mobile is on high alert. It could see rainfall of 10 to 20 inches and a surge of water that is seven feet above normal.

    Sandy Stimpson is the mayor of Mobile, and he joins me now.

    Mayor Stimpson, thank you so much for talking with us.

    Tell us, as of now, what do you expect?

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    So, we're expecting, just as you said, maybe 10 to 20 inches of rain.

    You combine that with the storm surge, plus a high tide, and you could have seven to nine feet of additional tidal influence in the Mobile River and Mobile Bay.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And how does that compare to storms that Mobile has seen before?

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    So, our most recent storm was 2018. And it was a tropical storm.

    So, it was more wind than flooding. If you go back to 2004, Ivan was the last major impact we had, which actually hit just a little bit east of here. But it's been a while since we have had a major storm really impact the city.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe you are prepared?

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    I think we're very prepared for it.

    This has been a very slow-moving storm. Early in the press conference, I was saying we have, truly, thousands of first responding personnel from the sheriff's department, police departments, National Guard, Coast Guard.

    I mean, everybody is on the highest alert right now to respond to the needs of our citizens. So, we are as prepared as you can possibly be for this kind of situation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To what extent are you asking people to evacuate, to be ready to go into shelters and so forth?

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    So, earlier today, the governor issued a voluntary evacuation order, really for the low-lying coast areas, our barrier islands and our beaches.

    And it was done voluntarily, because some of those places are not as vulnerable as others. If it was a Cat 4 or 5, she probably would have said it was a mandatory evacuation.

    But there has been some. I mean, we're seeing traffic on some of our interstate highways. But, pretty much, people are just moving from the low-lying into places where there are family, friends or shelters where they know that they won't have to be affected by the flooding.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you're comfortable with that level of preparation?

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    We continue to send the message out about, if you're in a low-lying area, to please let us know, so that either you can leave or we come get you, because, once you start having the combination of the surge, the tidal influence and flooding from flash flooding, when you call at that point, and we have to send first responders to get you, their lives are in jeopardy at that point.

    And we have just continued to beat that drum about, please let us know now how we can help you get out of the low-lying areas.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I hear you refer to having a lot of first responders.

    Do you now have sufficient personnel, people to do what you — and equipment to handle what may come?

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    Absolutely.

    And we're very fortunate that the collaboration between our law enforcement agencies, our cleanup crews is really second to none. I mean, Alabama Power Company, which services this area, they have 500 people on standby in close proximity, another 500 that could be here really at a moment's notice.

    So, we feel very comfortable that we will be able to come in, in the aftermath of this storm and restore things to some sense of normalcy in a short order.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, finally, where do you plan to spend tonight?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    Well, I will be here for a while. I'm not saying that I will be here all night long, but we will have people monitoring this facility all night.

    And that will be fire rescue, as well as our police department, and public works to — in the event of trees falling down, that we can deploy them to address any situation that may occur.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we certainly wish you the best and hope that it is not as serious as some of the forecasts say.

    Mayor Sandy Stimpson of Mobile, Alabama, thank you so much.

  • Sandy Stimpson:

    Thank you, Judy. I appreciate it.

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