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More than two feet of rain causes flooding in Florida, Alabama
(CNN) -- Torrential rain in the Florida Panhandle washed out bridges, sent chest-high water into homes and forced two major military bases to shut down Wednesday.
At least one person died, the Florida Highway Patrol said.I
n a neighborhood north of Pensacola, a creek overran its banks, inundating homes and forcing residents to retreat to their attics, Escambia County spokesman Bill Pearson told CNN on Wednesday.
Rescuers were reaching the residents on state Fish and Wildlife boats and personal watercraft normally used to patrol the county's beaches, he said. The National Guard was also on the way.
More than 50 tornadoes hammer South Naval Air Station Pensacola and Eglin Air Force Base were closed to all but essential personnel, the installations said on their Twitter accounts.
In nearby Baldwin County, Alabama, the Fish River was reaching historical flooding levels, the county's Emergency Management Agency reported.
In Perdido Key, Florida, Steve Olensky woke up to find that his 22-foot boat was missing.
"Last night was like a hurricane and tornado all in one. It was blowing and blowing, the rain was coming. It was just incredible," he said Wednesday.
"We've been through Ivan and Katrina, and we've never seen anything like this."
Parts of the region received more than a foot of rain over 24 hours, CNN meteorologist Sherri Pugh said. It swiftly flooded roads and made travel difficult, Pearson said. Reports indicated that three bridges on heavily traveled roads had been destroyed or damaged, he said.
"It was unlike any rainstorm I've experienced," he said.
Most government offices in the Florida Panhandle were closed Wednesday, as were many schools. Pearson said emergency officials were urging businesses to stay closed as well, and were asking motorists to stay off the roads. Tides up to 2 feet higher than normal were causing minor coastal flooding and dangerous rip currents, the National Weather Service said.Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency.
The rain was the latest work of a slow-moving storm system that has spawned tornadoes and other severe storms since Sunday, claiming at least 36 lives in Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and now Florida.
Tens of thousands remained without power in the South, where suspected tornadoes tore through homes and businesses late Monday.In addition to the Florida flooding death, at least 17 people died because of storms in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee on Monday. Those deaths are in addition to 18 others reported from storms Sunday in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa.Search and rescue efforts were still under way in Louisville, Mississippi, about 90 miles northeast of Jackson, where a tornado flattened a day care center, said Robert Latham of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the twisters inflicted "severe damage" in Louisville. Winston Medical Center, Louisville's major hospital, was also among the buildings hit.
Severe thunderstorms may roar across the southeastern United States again Wednesday, bringing with them a slight risk of hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.About 37 million people are at risk in places like Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Virginia Beach; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Atlanta, the National Weather Service said.Heavy rain will be the norm.