Hundreds find refuge from floodwaters after 0.6m of rain falls in US
By Melissa Nelson-Gabriel and Michael Kunzelman, AP
May 2, 2014, 12:21 am TWN
PENSACOLA BEACH, Florida--People were plucked off rooftops or climbed into their attics to get away from fast-rising waters when nearly 0.6 meters of rain fell on the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast in the span of about 24 hours, the latest bout of severe weather that began with tornadoes in the Midwest.
In the Panhandle on Wednesday, roads were chewed up into pieces or wiped out entirely. A car and truck plummeted 7.6 meters when portions of a scenic highway collapsed. Cars were overturned and neighborhoods were inundated, making rescues difficult for hundreds of people who called for help when they were caught off guard by the single rainiest day ever recorded in Pensacola.
Boats and Humvees zigzagged through the flooded streets to help stranded residents. At the height of the storm, about 30,000 people were without power. One Florida woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said.
In Alabama, Capt. David Spies of Fish River/Marlow Fire and Rescue said he was part of a team who found two women and a young boy trapped in the attic of a modular home.
Spies said they received the first call of help before midnight Tuesday but they couldn't find the group until about 8 a.m. Wednesday. By then, the water was 0.6 meters below the roof. A firefighter used an axe to punch a hole through the roof and free them.
There were at least 30 rescues in the Mobile area of Alabama. Florida appeared to be the hardest hit. Gov. Rick Scott said officials there received about 300 calls from stranded residents.
At the Pensacola airport, 39.5 centimeters of rain fell on Tuesday before midnight — setting a record for the rainiest single day in the city.
Pensacola and nearby Mobile are two of the rainiest cities in the U.S., averaging more than 1.5 meters of rain in a year, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
The National Weather Service said forecasters issued flash flood warnings as early as Friday, yet many people were still caught unaware.