PENSACOLA, Fla., April 30 (UPI) -- An unusual storm drenched the Florida Panhandle and the Gulf Coast of Alabama, bringing flash floods early Wednesday.
In Pensacola, Fla., where a total of 11 inches of rain was reported, local officials and residents struggled with flooded homes and collapsed roads. Gov. Rick Scott visited the city and told reporters he had just seen the Escambia County sheriff sink while walking through a flooded area.
"We just walked up to a house just now and the sheriff sank in four feet of water, he just sank all of a sudden," Scott told reporters. "So we have to be very careful. Every citizen has to be very careful. Don't drive into water, watch out for power lines, watch the weather."
Katrina Shannon told the Pensacola Journal News she thought she was going to die when a road collapsed under her Ford Escalade as she drove to work at 5 a.m. She was rescued by county employees who spotted her and threw her a rope.
"I've lived here most of my life,'' she said. "I've never seen anything like this before."
As much as 2 feet of rain was reported in a few spots. Capital Climate tweeted that the 11 inches reported in both Pensacola and Mobile, Ala., was the third highest total since weather records began in the region 130 years ago.
Florida is especially vulnerable to heavy rain because the state lies on limestone that dissolves easily, forming potential sinkholes.
Scott called up the National Guard to assist in the Panhandle and declared a state of emergency for 26 counties.
Bob Pearson, an Escambia County spokesman, said the flooding in the region was the worst officials had seen in at least 30 years.
"If it's a body of water, it poses a safety threat today," he told the Weather Channel.
In Mobile, rains described by the National Weather Service as the fifth heaviest in almost 150 years drenched the city. Much of the downtown area was underwater Tuesday.
A section of Interstate 10 from the Alabama line into Florida was closed overnight.