USA and Hurricane Sally: Reviewing the Aftermath

By: Hayden Cordova | Managing Editor

Photo by: Michael Dunn | Photographer

On the early morning of Sept. 16, Hurricane Sally made landfall on the Gulf Coast, the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama since Hurricane Ivan. In the aftermath of the disaster, Mobile and Baldwin counties continue their local relief efforts and recover from the impact.

Hurricane Sally began as a tropical depression forming in the Bahamas and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 14.  Originally projected to impact the Louisiana area and decreasing into a Category 1, Sally veered into the Alabama coastline and rapidly strengthened back to a Category 2.  Sally made landfall on the exact date and location of  Ivan 16 years prior, being the first hurricane to touch Alabama’s shores since.

Sally would prove devastating for a Category 2.  With its highest sustained wind speeds reported at 105 mph, the hurricane’s damage was largely due to its low travel speed of approximately 2 mph as it cut a swath of destruction across Baldwin County. According to AL.com, the estimated cost of damages incurred by Sally between 1 and 2 billion dollars, though that number may rise as relief efforts continue in the coming weeks.  Nearly a week removed from landfall, Fox10 News reported on Sept. 22 that there were still nearly 15,669 locations without power across Riviera Utility and Baldwin EMC grids; at the time, power was restored for 89 percent of locations. 

Comparatively, South Alabama spared the worst of these damages. USA President Tony Waldrop issued a statement regarding USA’s minor damages, noting a few leaking roofs, felled trees, and one downed light pole.  Except for University Commons, no power was lost on campus.  Affiliated off-campus locations towards the coast fared worse, however. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab, partnered with USA and other local universities, suffered heavy damages during the storm.

After suspending all campus activities in light of the storm, South moves forward from Sally’s impact, with classes resuming on Sept. 19. 

Andrea Kent, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, stated in an email that “the University Severe Weather Committee carefully considered the safety of the students, faculty, and staff in reopening following Hurricane Sally.  Students and employees were encouraged to contact faculty and supervisors with issues related to the access of campus or problems with remote instruction [and] faculty were asked to offer flexibility to students as needed.  The university community continues to exhibit patience and understanding as we navigate the post-Sally recovery.”