Tropical Storm Sally is strengthening as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico, taking aim at southern Louisiana and Mississippi, and National Weather Service projections show the system could become a hurricane by Monday afternoon.

Hurricane watches and storm warnings have been put in place throughout the gulf, including parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, according to Weather.com.

The storm is expected to make landfall late Tuesday in Louisiana, followed by the system moving into South Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service Birmingham.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the storm moved in.

“While we ultimately don’t know where Sally will make landfall, much of Southeast Louisiana is in the storm’s cone and the risk of tropical storm force or hurricane strength winds continues to increase. Please stay weather aware for the next several days and heed the directions of your local officials. This storm has the potential to be very serious,” Edwards said in a statement.

After being pummeled by Hurricane Laura approximately two weeks ago, Edwards urged residents to take the incoming storm system seriously.

“Barely two weeks ago, Louisiana suffered a devastating blow when Hurricane Laura came ashore as the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in Louisiana history, leaving a trail of destruction in its path,” Edwards said. “This, when combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, can make us all weary. I implore Louisianans to take their preparations seriously.”

A mandatory evacuation order was in place for New Orleans area residents outside of levee protection in Venetian Isles, Lake Catherine, and Irish Bayou, according to Mayor LaToya Cantrell. With an expected 6 to 9 feet of storm surge expected in those areas, residents were told to evacuate by 6 p.m. on Sunday.

In a 4 a.m. update on Sunday from the National Weather Service New Orleans, officials said the storm was forecast to become a category 2 hurricane before making landfall.

By 8 a.m. on Sunday, the storm was 250 miles west of Port Charlotte, Florida, and 300 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC reported wind speeds of 50mph and that the storm was moving ay approximately 13mph.

A storm surge warning was in effect from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to the border of Mississippi and Alabama. Storm surge is also expected by Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and Lake Borgne.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and metropolitan New Orleans, according to the NHS.

But the storm’s effects have already been felt in parts of South Florida.

In Key West, Florida, the storm dropped nearly 10 inches of rain, causing flooding and street closures.

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