Latest weather wallop: Florida, Alabama flooding
Published 10:11 am Wednesday, April 30, 2014
PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. — In the latest blow from a dayslong chain of severe weather across the South and Midwest, the Florida Panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast were hit with widespread flooding early Wednesday, with people stranded in cars and homes waiting for rescuers to find a way around impassable roads and others abandoning vehicles to walk to safety.
Crews weren’t able to respond to some calls for help because of flooding in and around Pensacola, and one woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said. Boats and jet skis were moved from the beaches to the streets, authorities planned aerial rescues, and the National Guard sent high-wheeled vehicles.
“It’s gotten to the point where we can’t send EMS and fire rescue crews out on some 911 calls because they can’t get there,” Escambia County spokesman Bill Pearson said. “We’ve had people whose homes are flooding and they’ve had to climb up to the attic.”
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Some people left their flooded cars and walked to find help on their own. “We have people at the police department,” Officer Justin Cooper said in Pensacola. “They walked up here and are hanging out until things get better.”
As much as 15 to 20 inches had fallen in the city in a 24-hour period, National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Grigsby in New Orleans said Wednesday morning, with a few more inches expected. Average annual rainfall for Pensacola is 65 inches, meaning much of that area was seeing nearly a third of that amount in just one day.
In some neighborhood, streets flowed like rivers as water reached mailboxes. Cars were submerged in driveways, and residents paddled by on kayaks.
“We’ve seen pictures that people are posting with water halfway up their doors, front doors,” Grigsby said. “It’s going to be a big cleanup, looks like.”
The widespread flooding is the latest wallop of a storm system that still packed considerable punch days after the violent outbreak began in Arkansas and Oklahoma. More than 30 people have been killed, including the 67-year-old driver in Pensacola.