Northwest Florida braces for more rain, flooding
T.S. Strickland, Staff Writer
The coming storm — expected to bring severe weather today and tomorrow to parts of the Plains and the Midwest — is expected to arrive in Northwest Florida by Friday and linger into Sunday.
Don Shepherd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, said residents could expect to see 1 to 3 inches of rain over the course of the weekend, with the possibility of up to 5 inches in isolated areas.
On Wednesday, the forecast called for a 30 percent chance of rain Friday, increasing to 50 percent Friday night. The heaviest rainfall is expected to occur Saturday, with a 60 percent chance of precipitation throughout the day, decreasing to 40 percent that night. The chance of showers Sunday should be 40 percent and 20 percent Sunday night. Shepherd said the worst of the weather would be saved for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, where as much as 7 inches of rain could fall in some areas.
“There could be locally heavy rain,” Shepherd said, “but it looks like the more prolonged, heavy rain will be to your west and northwest.” Still, the meteorologist said April’s record-breaking precipitation had saturated the water table in Northwest Florida — making the region more prone to flooding.
The Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties Wednesday afternoon. The watch, which also affects parts of Mississippi and Alabama, will last from Friday through Sunday.
“While our rainfall rates aren’t looking to be as high with the saturated ground, there will be a lot of runoff,” Shepherd said.
The chance for more severe weather had local officials on watch Wednesday night. Brad Baker, director of emergency management for Santa Rosa County, said his staff had already begun planning for the possibility of additional floods.
“There’s the potential for several major issues if we do get the amount of water that’s predicted,” he said. “One inch we can probably manage, but if we get 3 to 5 inches in areas that are already inundated, we can expect some flash flooding. … We’ve gotten 3 inches before, but we’ve never gotten 3 inches when we’ve already got (so much) on the ground.”
On alert for flooding
The county already has begun stockpiling sand bags to be distributed to area residents should the weather take a turn for the worse, Baker said. Officials are waiting until today to make any more definite preparations.
Emergency personnel from both counties will participate this morning in a conference call with the National Weather Service. Based on the results of that call, they will decide what additional measures to take. Baker said this could include placing more emergency shelters on standby.
Escambia County spokeswoman Kathleen Dough-Castro said officials there would wait until today to decide what to do.
“They feel we’re are still too far out to make any assumptions,” she said.
Baker suggested local residents prepare for the possibility of more severe weather by repairing existing erosion damage and stocking up on sandbags. He also suggested that those living in low-lying areas make evacuation arrangements now, so they would be prepared to leave in a hurry should the weather take a turn for the worse.
“If you already flooded, the water table is high where you’re at and it’s not going to take much rain to flood again,” Baker said. Shepherd advised local residents to keep a watchful eye on the weather for the next several days.
“It’s gonna be close enough that it’s something to watch and keep a close eye on this weekend,” he said.