U.S. Gulf Coast Communities Struggle Amid Record Flooding
Author: Kelli Dugan
Tori Davenport holds her grandson Josias Henry while helping her daughter clean up damage in her Forest Creek apartment from the recent record setting rainfall in Pensacola, Florida, June 11, 2012
Photo: Michael Spooneybarger
After a weekend that included navigating streets in kayaks and canoes, residents in parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast sought alternate routes and emergency shelter on Monday as the work week got under way.
With nearly 2 feet of rain reported in some areas since Thursday, flooding has racked up millions of dollars in damage and left thousands without power. Many have been forced into shelters in the face of what some are calling an unprecedented June deluge.
"We've probably seen the worst of the rains in terms of downpours, but now it's transitioning to more of a scattered thunderstorm pattern, so the rain chances aren't declining, and people need to remain cautious," said Jack Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile.
Official rainfall totals for the period spanning midnight Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday indicated Mobile received just over 10 inches at the Mobile Regional Airport, and Orange Beach in the far southeast corner of Baldwin County received more than 11 inches during the same period.
But Cullen said the figures were a bit misleading because the heaviest rains - which varied from as little as 5 inches to as many as 23 inches - fell outside official recording sites.
In nearby Pensacola, for instance, only 15.05 inches were recorded officially at the airport during the 48-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Monday, but a personal rainfall gauge 11 miles southwest of the Florida city recorded 23.58 inches during that same period.
Over the weekend, locals in hard-hit parts of the Florida Panhandle, especially around Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, could be seen paddling down streets in kayaks and canoes.
Cullen said a site just south of Mobile recorded a cumulative 22.46 inches of rain between Friday and Monday mornings, and another 1 to 2 inches were expected to fall throughout the day Monday.
"It's going to vary widely from none in some places to more than 2 inches farther south, depending on where the storms train as they redevelop," Cullen said. "Now, we're starting to see the rivers rise, and that will continue as the runoff continues."
Mobile and Baldwin county authorities in southwest Alabama closed numerous roads, especially in lower lying areas throughout the weekend as torrential rains and damaging winds pounded the coast, flooding already saturated communities from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
The only storm-related injury confirmed in Alabama by Monday morning was the lightning strike of a 10-year-old boy under the Gulf State Park Pavilion Sunday morning. The child has not been identified and his condition is unknown.
There were also reports of structural damage in Samson in Alabama's far southeast corner Sunday, thought to be caused by a tornado, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency opened a two-hour shelter in Bay Minette at 9 a.m. Monday for residents displaced by more than 1 foot of rain accumulating in some spots.
(Editing By Tom Brown and M.D. Golan)