The large storm system that unleashed severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the South this week, left at least 35 people dead in three states. In Florida’s panhandle, the storms dumped heavy amounts of rainfall to result in widespread, massive flooding. There were many incredible photos being posted on social media Wednesday morning of roads completely washed away by flooding and many homes and vehicles swamped.
Officials in the Florida panhandle are calling this flooding the worst they’ve seen in three decades. The National Weather Service said that up to 20 inches of rain came down in Pensacola in a 24 hour period as of early morning Wednesday. Tens of thousands of people in the panhandle were left without power. Some area residents had so much water inundate their homes that they had to retreat to their attics in a state of panic.
Flooding also struck Alabama’s Gulf coast this week when that area got nearly 21 inches of rain. The relentless heavy downpouring of rain was simply too much for the weather-toughened Gulf coast. Even long-time residents of the Gulf who’ve endured many hurricanes were astounded by the torrential rains that washed out roads and bridges and left homes flooded with several feet of water. The rushing floodwaters completely turned many roads to rubble and sent frightened homeowners scrambling to the upper levels of their homes when the cold floodwaters rushed into their homes and quickly rose.
Florida’s governor, Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for his state Wednesday and urged residents to be prepared for more rain and flooding. Scores of water rescues took place all day Wednesday in north Florida as over two dozen counties were swamped by several feet of floodwater. In Pensacola, some downtown areas had up to four feet of water. All the businesses on one block were completely flooded. Many residents reported seeing the floodwater rise before their eyes as the ground was so saturated that the water filled their homes very rapidly.
In Gulf Breeze, FL, rescuers evacuated around 150 people from an apartment complex using a total of six boats. The evacuation was necessary as a portion of the complex was under six feet of water and units on the ground level were completely flooded. Those people who were rescued were feeling very fortunate as the deep water arrived very quickly, catching them completely off-guard.
All along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, major roadways were under water and several rivers overflowed their banks, prompting numerous rescues in homes, cars and in ditches. The tornado that ripped through the heart of Arkansas this week killed 15 people and left over 3,000 homes in three counties uninhabitable. There were also dozens of commercial properties in the state of Arkansas closed down due them sustaining significant damage. President Obama declared a major disaster in Arkansas and ordered federal funding to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Shelters have opened to take in the thousands of people forced out of their homes due to storm damage.