State of emergency in Escambia Co.

At least one person died and numerous more were stranded by floodwaters and severe storms that pounded Escambia and Santa Rosa counties late Tuesday night.

The damage was part of a string of storms that devastated the South this week.

Escambia County spokesperson Bill Pearson confirmed a fatality, likely storm-related, in Cantonment. Details were sparse at deadline. The incident was listed as a drowning that occurred at 9:39 p.m. near the intersection of Tate School Road and U.S. 29, according to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office online dispatch log. The death occurred at about 10 p.m. near the same intersection, according to the Florida Highway Patrol's website.

Escambia County has declared a local state of emergency, Pearson said.

"We are asking people to stay off the roads," he said.

Because of the magnitude of water on the roads, some first responders are not able to reach their destinations, Pearson said. Some callers are being told to wait, as some rescue crews are not able to reach their destination.

"Our911 operations center is being flooded with phone calls," Pearson said. "We are begging people to call only if they have a life-threatening emergency."

A Red Cross emergency shelter has been opened at Bellview United Methodist Church for those whose homes were flooded out.

All Escambia County offices will be closed Wednesday, Pearson said. Only essential personnel will be reporting to work. The First Judicial Circuit offices will be closed Wednesday. Court officials haven't made decisions on rescheduling of cases; they're expected to make an announcement with an update Wednesday.

University of West Florida will be closed on Wednesday.

City press secretary Tamara Fountain said that Escambia County has activated its Emergency Operations Center at level 2.

Escambia County officials have confirmed that school has called off for Wednesday because of adverse water conditions on the roads.

Fountain said the city has decided to cease operations on Wednesday; all except essential personnel are being told to stay home.

"People are being rescued from their homes and cars," Fountain said. "People are still out driving. They need to stay in."

At the entrance of Scenic Hills North, resident Jill Hubbs said the creek and entrance were flooded and cars were being swept into the creek.

"A teenage driver yelled for help and the car flipped on its side," Hubbs said via Facebook. "Thanks to my nephew, Jonathan, and brother-in-law, Bob, who tied extension cords together, the teenager, who was hanging onto a tree, is safe. But another car is trapped with two people inside and the water is rushing like the rapids. There is a fire truck here, but they can't reach the car, which has water up to the middle of the doors."

Fire trucks lowered a ladder to the second vehicle and had rescued at least one of its occupants, Hubbs said just after 11 p.m.

As of 12 a.m., Pearson said rescue crews were unable to find the driver who reported his car flooded near Scenic Hills.

At deadline, emergency crews were responding to numerous reports of damage.

Floodwaters had penetrated businesses along Palafox Street, the main artery of downtown Pensacola.

Gulf Power reported outages affecting nearly 17,000 customers from Panama City to Orange Beach, Ala.

A 20-foot tall brick retaining wall holding up an earthen stormwater retention pond failed, sending thousands of gallons of water and mud into a neighborhood in the Woodbridge subdivision off University Parkway.

One house was severely damaged and the roadways in the subdivision were flooded with debris.

The house on Bridgewood Lane felt the full brunt of the water and debris that was released when a 15-foot wide section of the pond burst at the height of the storm.

Zach and Stephanie Oberhausen and their son escaped without injury from the home.

Escambia County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Heath Jackson said the intersection of Pace Boulevard and South Fairfield Drive was impassable because of flooding. Most of U.S. 29 in Cantonment was covered in standing water.

Numerous apartment complexes in the county were retaining water in their parking lots and becoming impassable.

"They haven't even compiled a list yet because there's so much happening at one time," Jackson said shortly before 10 p.m.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Rich Aloy said Norris Road in Pace has seen heavy flooding. Parts of State Road 87 are also covered in standing water.

Fort Pickens Road in Pensacola Beach has been closed since Tuesday morning because of flooding, and will likely stay closed for most of today.

The storm also kept people from exiting and entering the Fort Pickens campground. At about noon Tuesday, Ron and Barb Kika were unable to traverse the flooded road leading to Fort Pickens in their minivan and travel trailer.

The St. Louis, Mo., couple quickly cut their losses. Ron said they would look for another campsite or nearby hotel to spend the evening.

"We thought we'd come out here, but with the wind and the surf up like this, it gets kind of edgy," Ron said. "We enjoy camping, but I'm sorry to see it's going to be closed today for us."

Tuesday's thunderstorms and heavy rain are expected to continue throughout this morning and could linger well into the afternoon, said Randy Adkins, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. Isolated tornadoes weren't likely, but couldn't be ruled out completely.

"There's still a threat of severe weather but most of that will probably remain to the north and west," he said. "The main threat to the greater Pensacola area is a torrential rainfall which could produce flash flooding and also some potential for damaging wind gusts as well and the stronger thunderstorms that move through."

This April has seen more than triple the amount of rain the month's average, Adkins said. By 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, a total of 12.66 inches of rain had fallen in the area during this April. April's rain average is 4.2 inches.

It's possible the area could see another three to six inches of rain by the time the rain stops falling today, Adkins said.

A flash flood watch remains in effect through this morning for Northwest Florida.


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