PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. - In the latest blow from a dayslong chain of severe weather across the South and Midwest, the Florida Panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast were hit with widespread flooding early Wednesday, with people stranded in cars and homes waiting for rescuers to find a way around impassable roads and others abandoning vehicles to walk to safety.
Fire rescue crews weren't able to respond to some calls for help because of road flooding in and around Pensacola, and one woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said.
``It's gotten to the point where we can't send EMS and fire rescue crews out on some 911 calls because they can't get there,'' Escambia County spokesman Bill Pearson said. ``We've had people whose homes are flooding and they've had to climb up to the attic.''
Some people left their flooded cars and walked to find help on their own. ``We have people at the police department,'' Officer Justin Cooper of the Pensacola Police Department said. ``They walked up here and are hanging out until things get better.''
As much as 15 to 20 inches had fallen in Pensacola in a 24-hour period, National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Grigsby in New Orleans said Wednesday morning, with a few more inches expected. Grigsby said aerial rescues were planned, and the county moved boats and jet skis from the beaches to the streets to help. A portion of Interstate 10 north of Pensacola and other roads were closed, and Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties.
``We've seen pictures that people are posting with water halfway up their doors, front doors,'' Grigsby said. ``It's going to be a big cleanup, looks like.''
In Pensacola Beach, people woke to violent storms, heavy rain and lightning. Standing water could be seen on many parts of the beach.
Pensacola Naval Air Station's hospital was closed, as was the Air Force Special Operations center at Hurlburt Field.
The widespread flooding is the latest wallop of a storm system that still packed considerable punch days after the violent outbreak began in Arkansas and Oklahoma. At least 35 people have been killed in that storms that started Sunday and spread from Oklahoma to North Carolina.
In Gulf Shores, Ala., where nearly 21 inches of rain fell in a day's time, the scene resembled the aftermath of a hurricane early Wednesday. The intracoastal waterway rose so high it reached the canal road linking the town with neighboring Orange Beach.