(CNN) — Hurricane Sally made landfall Wednesday near Gulf Shores, Alabama, according to the National Hurricane Center. It made landfall at 5:45 am ET, with winds of 169 km / h, making it a strong Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Hurricane force winds extend up to 40 miles from the center. A sustained wind of 157 km / h with a gust of 187 km / h was recently reported at Fort Morgan, Alabama and a gust of 150 km / h at Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The storm continues to creep at a speed of only 5 km / h, which will lead to a prolonged period of hurricane force winds, storm surge and catastrophic flash flooding over the region.
Conditions are deteriorating as the storm approaches, and the National Weather Service office in Mobile, Alabama, is warning people to “shelter.”
The bureau issued a flash flood emergency, saying these “advisories are issued for extremely rare situations when severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from flash flood is occurring.”
This is a DANGEROUS SITUATION. LOOK FOR HIGHER TERRAIN NOW !! ”the NWS mobile office tweeted.
More than 260,000 customers are already without power along the Gulf Coast and thousands have evacuated before the storm.
The storm has brought flooding and storm surge to several coastal communities and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people directly in its path.
Sally’s maximum sustained winds intensified to 90 mph on Tuesday night. The slow speed is expected to continue Wednesday as it turns north and then northeast, bringing with it high winds and potentially historic flooding.
Satellite images of Sally indicate the eye is reshaping early Wednesday, which is another sign of strengthening, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.
Precipitation of 25 to 50 centimeters is expected in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, with isolated amounts of 76 centimeters possible.
The Florida National Guard has activated 175 members to prepare for search and rescue operations, with 30-foot-tall water vehicles waiting to use them if necessary, according to a Tweet from the Emergency Management Division. And Pensacola police have warned residents to stay off the highways, as “flooded roads” and “dangerous debris … have become too numerous to list.”
The slow-moving nature of the storm also means that hurricane force winds and storm surges will be in the area longer, particularly east of the center of the storm.
Flash flooding with rainfall amounts of 6 to 10 inches could be seen in Georgia and the Carolinas later this week as the storm moves inland and weakens.
Widespread power outages and delayed water repairs
More than 150,000 customers have lost power in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida as of early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.US.
Those on Sally’s trail are also experiencing water outages due to unsafe conditions to repair utilities due to the storm.
The Escambia County Public Utilities Authority (ECUA) issued an alert Tuesday that it is unable to respond to a major water line break in Pensacola Beach due to storm conditions and bridge closures ahead of Sally.
The water system had to be shut down at approximately 11:00 pm as storm surge and tidal levels will also flood the sewer collection system, according to ECUA.
“We urge residents who are still in Pensacola Beach to stockpile water if possible. ECUA will send crews to locate the break and make repairs as soon as possible after the storm, “the notice said.
Businesses close and military bases restrict access
Businesses are also closing due to the storm, with Walmart announcing 54 closings due to Sally, Walmart spokesman Scott Pope told CNN on Tuesday.
“We are tracking the storm in real time and have activated our Emergency Operations Center to support our partners in the impacted areas,” Pope said.
Along the Gulf Coast, three military installations have announced that only essential mission personnel should report for work Wednesday.
The facilities are Naval Air Station Pensacola in Escambia County, Florida, Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola.
Keeslar is home to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron often called the “Hurricane Hunters.”
Evacuations and preparations
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for much of the coastline and low-lying areas from Mississippi to Florida. Shelters have been opened to house the evacuees.
People have been preparing for Sally since the weekend, filling sandbags, gathering supplies, and preparing their houses.
Merrill Warren of Summerdale, Alabama, which is about 15 miles inland from the Gulf, told CNN that he brought furniture, bought gas and other supplies, and prepared his generator for the storm.
On Tuesday night it reported that heavy rains and winds of up to 63 km / h had already hit inland. Warren said he’s more concerned about the potential for increased rains and surges than anything else.
CNN’s Devon Sayers, Joe Sutton, Sharif Paget, Micahel Guy, Dave Hennen, Rebekah Riess, Kay Jones, and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.