Death, damage, and disaster was caused by a record 27 inch flash flood deluge of rain accompanied by over 50,000 lightning bolts which swung a fist of devastation at Pensacola, Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa Counties that will not soon be forgotten. Tornadoes were reported throughout the Northwest Florida area hop scotching over areas that had been alerted and popping up miles away in another county.
This was not the first hurricane of 2014; however, it was a first biblical-like rain storms that rivaled Ivan almost ten years ago in September 2004 as emergency alerts were declared early Wednesday morning for Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties in Florida. Pensacola’s downtown area was inundated with flood waters in several downtown buildings. Neighborhoods were overtaken with streets that seldom flood catching residents off guard leaving them to abandon their vehicles and wade through the water to safety. Heavily traveled highways like 90 and sections of 98, became impassable and the bayside of Scenic Highway actually fell into the Escambia Bay. The impact of this slow moving drenching left stranded cars on urban neighborhood streets, rural county roads, and those heavily traveled highways.
Portions of Interstate 10 in Florida were closed both eastbound and westbound because of flooding from the Florida state line to Escambia County, FL, according to Baldwin County, AL EMA via Twitter. Drivers were reported to be stuck on the interstate. Baldwin County EMA is urging residents to stay off the roads during these dangerous conditions. Escambia County Emergency Management Agency declared a 24-hour flood emergency Tuesday night and a state of emergency after midnight Wednesday morning. They urged residents to stay off the roads.
A combination of warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico was pulled up by the jet stream in front of a slow moving low-pressure system that brought cool air behind it. This combination kept the atmosphere unstable. The pressure system was moving so slowly, that the storms redeveloped as severe thunderstorms, even tornadoes, and caused the flooding issues in Mobile, Alabama, and Northwest Florida. The Mobile National Weather Service’s radar went down due to “a direct lightning strike” that hit it on Tuesday, April 29th
The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners on Monday, May 5th, extended the State of Emergency for another seven days. The Federal Government has been approach by Governor Rick Scott for a major disaster declaration to be made President Obama. The damage caused to privately owned homes, business and property as a result of the recent floods in Escambia was assessed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM). They have completed their Individual Assistance Preliminary Damage Assessment of. Preliminary totals include:
- 526 residences have been damaged by less than 18 inches of water
- 421 residences have been majorly damaged by more than 18 inches of water
- 19 residences have been totally destroyed
- 2 residences are inaccessible
- 235 residences have been damaged in ways other than water damage
The estimate for damage assessments to public infrastructure such as roads and drainage/storm water systems has been estimated at $20 million. However, Escambia County engineers are continuing to assess damage and that figure is expected to rise.
County Commissioners toured Escambia County communities with Governor Scott and other local and state officials to assess the damage from the storm. Commissioner Lumon May, and Ellison Bennett, local civil rights advocate accompanied Governor Rick Scott on a tour of Forest Creek, a predominately African-American housing development in Warrington. The situation in Forest Creek was described as a catastrophe as the entire first floor apartments of the development were under water. Gonzalez Court, another predominately African-American housing development on Pensacola’s east side between 11th and 9th Avenues was also flooded as the holding pond across from the Veteran Post #193 overflowed tremendously!
The recovery continues as the Pensacola Voice goes to press. Escambia County Public Information released the following updates at press time: Vehicles abandoned in roadways due to flooding will be moved as necessary by various agencies to facilitate repairs:
On State roadways, vehicles will be towed by Florida Highway Patrol, (850) 484-5000
On County roadways, vehicles will be towed by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, (850) 436-9630
On City roadways, vehicles will be towed by the Pensacola Police Department, (850) 435 1603
Residents are advised to find alternate routes for the following roads in Escambia County that remain closed:
Ashland Avenue – flooding from Ashland Avenue to Ponderosa Drive
Ashland Avenue – flooding from Ponderosa Drive to Croquett Street
Bauer Road – construction from Sorrento Road to Gulf Beach Highway
Blue Springs Drive – washout – all directions
Burning Tree Road – bridge – all directions
Dog Track Road – washout from Dog Track Road North to Lillian Highway
Fannie Road – bridge from Campbell Road to Carnley Road
High Pointe Drive – washout at Constantine
Interstate Circle – bridge – all directions
Johnson Avenue – bridge from East Johnson Avenue to East Olive Road
Lloyd Street East – washout at 20th Street
Main Street – washout from A Street to Devilliers Street
Massachusetts Avenue – flooding at Kelly Avenue
Meadowbrook Drive – bridge from Meadowbrook Drive to Scenic Hills Drive
Maxam Street – flooding – both north and south bound
- Morningside Drive – washout both east and west bound
- Oak Valley Drive – washout – all directions
- Old Corry Field Road – bridge from Navy Boulevard to Idlewood Drive
- Piedmont Road – washout from Tronjo Drive to Hallmark Drive
- Pineville Road – bridge – both north and south bound
- Ponderosa Drive – flooding – from Ashland Avenue to Bowman Avenue
- Ronda Street – washout from Daniel to Rufus
- Scenic Highway –washout from Whimbledon Drive to Scenic Highway Circle