MIAMI — The National Hurricane Center says Sally has rapidly strengthened to a hurricane, sustaining top winds of around 85 mph.

The National Hurricane Center said it was too early to tell exactly where Sally would come ashore, because it’s still not known when it would make a turn to the north. At 10 a.m. local time, it was about 140 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its top sustained winds were 65 mph and it was moving toward the coast at just 6 mph.

People in New Orleans were watching the storm’s track intently. A more easterly landfall would likely bring the heavier rains and damaging winds onto the Mississippi coast, or east of that. Already outer bands from the storm were hitting the Florida Panhandle.

A more westerly track would pose another test for the low-lying city, where heavy rains have to be pumped out through a century-old drainage system. Officials with the Sewerage and Water Board said Sunday that all of the pumps were in operation ahead of the storm, but the aging system is also susceptible to breakdowns.

Sally is expected to reach shore by early Tuesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions, including risk of flooding, to a region stretching from the western Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.

This story will be updated.


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