Hurricane Sally touched down on the coast of Alabama in the US early Wednesday morning local time, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) confirmed, bringing with it torrential rains and a surge of ocean water that could cause devastating flooding in the days to come.

The Category 2 hurricane moved ashore at a slow 5 kilometers (3 miles) per hour, hitting the Gulf Coast with winds blowing 165 kilometers per hour.

The coastal areas of the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida are particularly vulnerable to damage from the hurricane, the NHC said. Up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) of rain are expected in some areas.

“Historic, life-threatening flooding likely along portions of the northern Gulf coast,” the NHC warned Tuesday evening. 

Read more: Could flooding be a cure for rising seas?

Governors declare states of emergency

Some 400,000 households were affected by power outages by early Wednesday, according to the website poweroutage.us. 

The governors of Mississippi and Alabama have declared a state of emergency for their states.

“We are facing record flooding, perhaps even a historic high,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a press conference. “The higher the water rises, the higher the risk of loss of property and life.”

Sally is one of five tropical cyclones currently active in the Atlantic Ocean, a phenomenon that meteorologists say has only been registered once before, in September 1971. 

At the end of August, Hurricane Laura caused severe damage in the US, killing 14 people in Louisiana and Texas.

US President Donald Trump has compared Hurricane Sally to Hurricane Laura, but said the storm was “under control.”

kp/sms (AFP, AP)