Crews work to rescue hundreds cut off by hurricane
PENSACOLA, Fla. — Rescuers on the Gulf Coast used boats and high-water vehicles Thursday to reach people cut off by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, even as a second round of flooding took shape along rivers and creeks swollen by the storm’s heavy rains.
Across southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, homeowners and businesses began cleaning up, and officials inspected bridges and highways for safety, a day after Sally rolled through with 105 mph winds, a surge of seawater and 1 to 2½ feet of rain in many places.
In hard-hit Pensacola and surrounding Escambia County, where Sally’s floodwaters had coursed through downtown streets and lapped at car door handles on Wednesday before receding, authorities went door-todoor to check on residents and warn them they were not out of danger.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Panhandle
residents not to let their guard down. “You’re going to see the rivers continue to rise,” DeSantis said after an aerial tour of the Panhandle.
Most rivers fed by the storm were cresting in Alabama and the Panhandle on Thursday, although the Shoal, in Florida was still rising, said Steve Miller of the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama. Near Crestview, Florida, portions of Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 90 — the two main roadways running east to west through the Panhandle — were closed because of flooding from the Shoal, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Crews carried out at least 400 rescues in Escambia County, Florida, by such means as high-water vehicles, boats and water scooters, authorities said. Rescuers focused their efforts Thursday on Innerarity Point, a narrow strip of land close to Pensacola that is home to waterfront homes and businesses. Floodwaters covered the only road out.
Richard Wittig and his family were among scores of people hemmed in by floodwaters on an island at the tip of the point. Two generators powered his house.
“If I didn’t have a working generator, we’d be dead. Nobody can get to us,” said Wittig, 77. He said he and his son rely on oxygen machines to stay alive.
A few people cleaned up in Bristol Park, a creekside neighborhood where as much as 4 feet of water filled brick homes north of Pensacola.
Susan Cutts’ parents fled rising water inside their home into the garage, where they desperately called for help on a dying cellphone until aid arrived.
“They were on top of their car when they got to them,” Cutts said.