The center of the storm is expected to move near the coast of southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, reaching land Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, the hurricane center said.
The storm has slowed as it approaches the Gulf Coast. As of early Tuesday, it was traveling west at 3 mph, with sustained winds of 90 mph, down from 110 mph on Monday.
Life threatening storm surge and flash flooding is expected along the northern Gulf Coast, where some areas could see more than 20 inches of rain.
Some coastal communities are already reporting flooding.
Katrina survivor prepares for Sally
As the storm approached Monday, Mississippian Mike Taylor prepared by filling and placing sandbags around his house in Long Beach to keep water out.
“Just got to prepare. That’s all we can do,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he isn’t nervous about Hurricane Sally because he believes he has already experienced a worse storm.
His 8-year-old nephew is not as confident. As he helped Taylor fill sandbags, he told CNN he’s worried.
“I’m very nervous. The storm is coming at night and the wind can blow your house down,” the boy said.
A lifelong Gulf Coast resident, 35-year-old Robert Higdon also filled sandbags ahead of the storm’s arrival. He said he is not terribly concerned about this hurricane, but knows it’s best to “prepare for the unexpected.”
Gulf of Mexico storms can quickly intensify, he said, so he always assumes the hurricane is going to be a little worse than the official forecast predictions.
“I’d rather be prepared for the unexpected,” Higdon said. “If it’s a Category 2 or below we just bunker down. A lot of people are willing to ride it out.”
Evacuations ordered along the coast
“Make plans to evacuate low-lying areas,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said in a tweet Monday night. “Emergency operators are ready to respond. This is the real deal, and it deserves your attention.”
“Be smart. Prepare for worst. Pray for the best,” Reeves said.
Mandatory evacuations have been announced along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama ahead of the storm.
Residents in Plaquemines Parish, St. Charles Parish and parts of Jefferson Parish have been told to evacuate as flooding and storm surge are expected in those areas.
Flights canceled ahead of the storm
Airports in at least two states have announced flight cancellations due to the storm.
Pensacola International Airport in Florida is closed and Alabama’s Mobile Regional Airport has canceled all flights ahead of Hurricane Sally.
American Airlines reported that it is “closely monitoring” the hurricane’s track and has waived change fees for passengers who opt not to fly because of the storm.
United and Delta also said they will allow passengers to reschedule their flights due to the hurricane.
CNN’s Michael Guy and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.