U.S. Gulf Coast hit by flooding after 24 hours non-stop rain

TALLAHASSEE, Florida Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:25pm EDT

1 of 18. Charles Davidson helps his neighbor Santonio Coleman, 11, from his flooded home in the Kelly Ave. Basin area of Pensacola, Florida, April 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Spooneybarger

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - The worst floods in decades deluged roads and engulfed homes and cars in Florida's Panhandle and coastal Alabama on Wednesday, the latest mayhem created by a tornado-packing storm system that has killed at least 34 people this week.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties inundated by as much as two feet of relentless rain over a 24-hour period, as severe thunderstorms raced across the northern part of the state.

Emergency workers evacuated about 200 people in the Panhandle, Scott told reporters at an emergency operations center south of Tallahassee.

"This is devastating to this part of the state," he told CNN. "No-one anticipated it would just keep on raining and raining and raining ... We thought it was going to move on out."

Ashton Hayward, the mayor of Pensacola, Florida, said some downtown areas of the Gulf Coast city, were up to four feet under water. On one block, all of the businesses were flooded, he said.

"One of my co-workers who lives nearby didn't see water coming into the house, and he turned around and he had rooms with stuff floating in them," said Adam Jones, 28, a Pensacola home theater technician. "The ground was so saturated ... it came right from under him."

A portion of the Scenic Highway in Pensacola, which runs along a bluff 80 to 100-feet above sea level, collapsed in two places, causing a car and truck to fall about 40 feet, Hayward said. No injuries were reported.

An elderly woman died late Tuesday in Escambia County after high waters submerged her car on a highway, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

In Gulf Breeze, located on a spit of land on Pensacola Bay, rescue crews evacuated 150 people from a 2-story apartment complex in six boats operated by Florida Fish and Wildlife officials. The rear of the complex was under five feet of water and ground floor units were flooded, one of the rescuers said.

"All accesses were flooded. People were panicky. They were afraid they were going to be cut off," said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Stan Kirkland.

Bill Pearson, Escambia County public information officer, said emergency management received several reports of people being swept from their cars and those cases remain "unresolved."

Along Alabama's Gulf Coast, major county roads were flooded and several rivers overflowed after some areas got between 22 and 26 inches of rain in 24 hours, according to Mitchell Sims, emergency management director for Baldwin County.

"We were rescuing people out of cars, out of ditches, out of homes," Sims said. "We are still getting reports of people trapped."

The flooding appears to be the worst in 30 years in the Panhandle, according to initial radar images of the rainfall, said Eric Esbensen, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Schools and roads were closed in several Panhandle counties including Escambia. State and county officials urged residents not to drive in the treacherous conditions of rising water, damaged roads and storm debris.

Severe conditions may persist into Thursday, though "the weather may be quieting down as warmer, more humid air is pushed offshore by a cold front moving through the Appalachians," said National Weather Service meteorologist Corey Mead.

There have been 27 confirmed weather-related deaths and more than 200 people reported injured across Arkansas and Mississippi, as tornadoes reduced homes to rubble, shredded trees and launched vehicles into the air.

Deaths have also been reported in Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama and Tennessee.

President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Arkansas and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts, the White House said.

Shelters have been set up for thousands of families forced out of their homes. More than 2,000 houses and 100 commercial properties have been reported damaged.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Liston in Orlando, Curtis Skinner in New York, Verna Gates in Birmingham, Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Writing by Colleen Jenkins and David Adams; Editing by Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (7)
morbas wrote:
Since 1870 the sea level rise is 9 feet, the rate is constant since 1992, atypical of any cyclic prognosis. This trend needs consideration for planning of flood potential through the next 142 years. The sea level rise had a cyclic component until 1992, now it is a constant rate, likely driven by excessive CO2 increase rate. ICE flow rates are zero in the Aleutians, ICE melt rate in Greenland is rapid, and Ice shelf loss in the Ant Arctic is in chunks the size of California. Circumnavigation of environmental regulations (outsourcing of American Manufacturing) to second rate countries is contributing to acceleration of global warming. Greenland ICE represents 9 meters (27feet) of global Ocean rise, Antarctica Ice represents 90 meters of sea level rise.
If this represents a base ice melt, then what will stop the Greenland Ice from shifting, perhaps slipping off into the Atlantic? Greenland ice volume would push sea levels upward 7.2 meters (23.6ft). This would likely stop the driver of the global ocean currents. Global climate would change rapidly and radical, a up ending civilizations on a global scale. We know what America looked like 100M years ago with no polar ice; two mountain ranges, Appalachian and Laramidia separated by the Western Interior Seaway. Florida completely awash. Russia and China would dominate the world.

Congress must open up infrastructure projects to enable USA economics. Reduce/eliminate naval shipping that uses waste grade oil fuel. Switch to North/Central/South America Rail infrastructure to include a Trans-Bearing Strait route as a matter of efficiency. Re-Engineer rail gauge for reliability and speed. Make Truck/rail/freeway portals at interstate intersections, thus reducing fuel consumption and promoting local electric transport. Build national level canals for water distribution relieving drought by using excessive fresh water run of. We might then improve CO2 sequester by irrigating our mid plane deserts. One of the canal paths through the Rockies could be coupled with a SF to Denver Maglev 2G space ramp using a common power generation infrastructure. Thus promoting Maglev transit as a spinoff of Space Access Maglev launch capacity.
We should build on a strategic infrastructure designed to make USA a Global transportation hub, linking Americas (North Central South) to the old world. Not because this is easy or hard, because this will be our challenge, we must be willing to better mankind.
Stop XL,
Naval Cargo ships have little (to none) emission regulations. “In one year, a single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. The low grade bunker fuel used by the worlds 90,000 cargo ships contains up to 2,000 times the amount of sulfur compared to diesel fuel used in automobiles.” The Guardian April 23,2009. Waste Oil is used to power the worlds 90,000 vessels.


Apr 30, 2014 11:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
zigo wrote:
Forget any investments: the GOP-supporting 1% are extracting capital from the USA and investing it in China. Reducing taxes = stop investing.
The high taxes of the 1940′s and 50′s created a high point for the US. Since then, the country gets milked as a cash cow for more productive investments elsewhere. Smart strategy.

Apr 30, 2014 2:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
zigo wrote:
Forget any investments: the GOP-supporting 1% are extracting capital from the USA and investing it in China. Reducing taxes = stop investing.
The high taxes of the 1940′s and 50′s created a high point for the US. Since then, the country gets milked as a cash cow for more productive investments elsewhere. Smart strategy.

Apr 30, 2014 2:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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