Severe floods in Florida's Panhandle and coastal Alabama have
deluged roads and engulfed homes and cars, the latest mayhem
created by a tornado-packing storm system that has killed at
least 34 people in the United States this week.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for
26 counties inundated by as much as 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6
centimeters) of hourly rain as severe thunderstorms raced
across the northern part of the state.
Emergency workers received about 300 calls for evacuations in
the Panhandle, where up to 22 inches (56 centimeters) of
rainfall was recorded in recent days, Scott told reporters at
an emergency operations centre south of Tallahassee.
"There's a lot of water on the ground," the governor said,
adding that the threat for more flash flooding remains.
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, where emergency officials used boats and
high-water vehicles to rescue stranded motorists and
State and county officials urged residents not to drive in
the treacherous conditions of rising water, damaged roads and
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.
A portion of the Scenic Highway in Pensacola, which runs
along a bluff 80 to 100-feet above sea level, collapsed in
two places, dropping a car and a truck about 40 feet, Hayward
said. No injuries were reported.
An elderly woman died late on Tuesday (local time) in
Escambia County after high waters submerged her car on a
highway, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Along Alabama's Gulf Coast, major county roads were flooded
and several rivers overflowed after some areas got between 22
and 26 inches (56 and 66 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours,
according to Mitchell Sims, emergency management director for
"We were rescuing people out of cars, out of ditches, out of
homes," Sims said. "We are still getting reports of people
The storms were expected to spread across portions of the
East Coast and could drop 2 to 5 additional inches (5 to 13
centimeters) of rain in some areas and launch fresh
tornadoes, said National Weather Service meteorologist Corey
A flood warning was in effect until Wednesday afternoon for
the Washington D.C. metro area, as well as urban areas and
small streams between Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland.
Severe conditions may persist into Thursday, though "it looks
like the weather may be quieting down as warmer, more humid
air is pushed offshore by a cold front moving through the
Appalachians," Mead said.
There have been 27 confirmed weather-related deaths and more
than 200 people reported injured across Arkansas and
Mississippi, the hardest hit of six states struck by the
storm system, as tornadoes reduced homes to rubble, shredded
trees and launched vehicles into the air.
Deaths have also been reported in Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama and
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 while the National Guard, local police and
residents who lost all their possessions sifted through the
rubble looking for more victims.
More than 2,000 houses and 100 commercial properties have
been reported damaged.