Gulf of Mexico storm Sally now a Cat 1 hurricane

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Miami (AFP)

Tropical storm Sally has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, meteorologists said Monday, and is threatening the southern US coastal states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Sally was packing maximum sustained winds of around 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour and was located 175 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi, at 1600 GMT.

The slow-moving storm was heading in a west-northwesterly direction at six mph and was expected to make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, which is still recovering from Hurricane Laura, said Sally could impact the southeast part of the state and told residents to be prepared.

"Be smart and be safe," he tweeted.

The governors of Alabama and Mississippi both declared a state of emergency ahead of the approaching storm.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Hurricane Sally was expected to make landfall around Biloxi at 2:00 am (0600 GMT) on Wednesday.

"The storm surge projections continue to be worrisome with anywhere from five to eight feet (1.5 to 2.4 meters) coastal surge," Reeves said.

"We are continuing to be very concerned about the amount of rainfall," he said, adding that some areas could be drenched in as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.