GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) —
Towns began distributing sandbags and warning boat owners to secure vessels as Gov. Kay Ivey ordered a mandatory evacuation of visitors and tourists from the coast. Ivey also signed a state of emergency she said would let officials seek federal aid more quickly if needed later.
“As residents along the Gulf Coast know all too well, these storms are unpredictable, and I strongly encourage everyone to take Hurricane Delta seriously,” she said in a statement.
Delta made landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula late Tuesday as a Category 2 storm and is expected to enter the southern Gulf of Mexico sometime Wednesday. It was on a path that forecasters said would take it toward possible landfall west of Alabama as a powerful Category 4 storm later in the week.
Officials feared lingering damage from Hurricane Sally, which made landfall near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16, could make Delta more of a problem on its expected approach toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Sally dumped as much as 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain in Alabama. Erosion from Sally, which gnawed away at beaches and dunes, still hasn’t been repaired and could worsen the flooding threat from Delta since there is less sand to stop the water, according to an update from the town of Gulf Shores.
Dump trucks have removed about 190,000 cubic yards (145,000 cubic meters) of splintered buildings, docks and trees in neighboring Orange Beach, but remaining debris could complicate preparation for and recovery from Delta, said Mayor Tony Kennon.
“I worry about this one. I think we’re all snake bit,” he said at a town gathering Monday night.
On narrow Dauphin Island, a barrier island south of Mobile that was swamped by rising seawater and falling rain during Sally, officials said debris from fallen trees and splintered homes had been cleared off only 25% of the area by Sunday.
Work replacing shattered docks and boardwalks was nearly complete at a boat landing and fish pier on the eastern end of the island as Delta intensified. The town also began offering sandbags to residents needing to prepare for the worst.