Pensacola Floods & Babies

I am sorry for the delay in posting this week! I would normally have posted yesterday, but we had a wild first half of the week and my brain felt like mush by the time yesterday morning rolled around due to lack of sleep. Many of you have probably heard about the monster storm we experienced this week, and the flooding that ensued. Thank you so much to everyone who checked in on us yesterday, we are totally fine, but we did have a crazy time. Here is a little recap of our experience...

We get flash flood warnings a lot here, to the point that we got used to just rolling our eyes and dismissing the emergency alerts on our phones. On monday night we had an epic thunderstorm which kept us up all night. When I got home from work on tuesday night the rain was coming down pretty hard and there was frequent thunder and lightning, but I didn't have any troubld driving home so John and I got ready to leave for the Navigators dinner that we go to every Tuesday. We joked about whether or not it was safe to drive the 20 minutes across town, and John suggested we take my SUV versus his sedan. 

We left Navs around 9:30 and the storm was raging outside. As we drove out of the neighborhood we saw we both had missed calls and texts from our friend Cotter from an hour earlier, wondering if he could drive to our house from where he was waiting for a friend at the airport, because he wasn't sure he could make it home with all the flooding. That is when we began to notice how the water running along the sides of the roads we were driving on was starting to look more like streams which were rising onto the road. By the time we talked to Cotter he had decided to try and brave the bridge to get across the water to Milton because he had found our apartment locked. We, meanwhile had gotten on the highway and weren't too concerned until we came around a corner and realized that about 100 feet ahead of us the whole highway had flooded out and there were three abandoned cars in the middle with water up to their doors. The local news was setting up cameras as we turned around in the middle of the highway to try and figure out another way to get home. Meanwhile, the rain was coming down so hard that we learned later it had rained 5 inches in 45 minutes. That is more rain than Pensacola received during Hurricane Ivan. 

For the next hour we drove through backroads trying to find a way towards the area we live in. We had to turn around multiple times when we found the road blocked by rising water. We saw tons of abandoned cars completely washed out, or sitting on high ground stranded. At one point I saw a couple cars completely submerged up to their roofs just a short ways through an intersection to our left, with their lights still on. By then we had realized that we were in a pretty scary situation, but eventually we made it onto I-10 which would take us up north towards the area we live in. We heard from Cotter that the bridge over the bay was completely flooded, and even when he had gone over it earlier one side was flooded all the way to the top of the guard rail. The whole time we were talking with 5 of our friends who were in two separate cars, trying to figure out where they were and if they could get through. They all live in Milton, so they decided to try to make it to our house which was closer and stay put there until the water went down. 

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As we neared our exit we saw more massive flooding on the highway in front of us, but there was a suburban slightly ahead of us that decided to try and go through so we followed suit. At one point a jeep was driving next to us and it felt like we were driving next to a moter boat because the water was so high that it's wake was splashing my passenger side window. Eventually we did make it home, and hour later, around midnight our friends Mike, Kori, and Sarah Beth arrived who had luckily been been driving Sarah Beth's jeep. Our other friends, Travis and Haley, who were in a sedan, were stuck in one of the most flooded areas, Pine Forest Rd. They had had to seek high ground because at one point they found themselves floating on the road and knew they couldn't risk trying to get to our house. They sat stranded at a What-a-Burger with tons of other folks who couldn't get home. We were up all night, anxious about possible tornados and amped up from our drives. At 5 AM Haley and Travis burst into our apartment, recounting how they had had to abandon their car and had gotten a ride from a guy driving a Semi-Truck big enough to get through some of the deeper water. Even so, it took them three hours to get to our place, which normally would take 20 minutes from where they were, because they were diverted so many times by water that the Semi wouldn't even had been able to get through. 

Needless to say, we were all pretty exhausted yesterday. The rain had stopped, but the news showed massive sink holes that had occurred, people floating on kayaks in their living rooms, entire pieces of roads missing. We didn't leave the house until around 4:00 pm when we decided to go and rescue Haley and Travis's car. The day-time pictures are all from that drive, the flood water still there even after having half a day to drain.

All in all it was an insane 48 hours. When the weather station recovered from being shut down due to a lightning strike we learned that Pensacola received 22 inches of water in 24 hours, almost a third our average yearly rainfall.  I, the girl named after a hurricane, have seen some bad weather first hand, but nothing like this. While it was a thrill for an adrenaline junkie like myself, in hindsight I cannot believe we were driving when the floods hit. It is one thing to be holed up having a hurricane party when a storm hits, but a completely different thing to be caught by surprise in the middle of it without the immediate option of retreating to your safe and cozy home. I love a good storm, but I think we all learned a bit of a lesson about how quickly it can become an incredibly dangerous and violent situation. We felt blessed yesterday, after learning of how many homes had been ruined in our area and the two lives that were lost to drowning, that all we had to show for the past two days was a good story. 

Here are some links to news stories with some good footage during the night:

http://news.yahoo.com/latest-weather-wallop-florida-alabama-flooding-121700593.html

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/deadly-tornado-outbreak/life-threatening-flooding-submerges-pensacola-florida-n93201

It never ceases to amaze me how Nature has the power to derail our lives in one short day. Please pray for those who have had to evacuate their homes, and the Tornado victims as well. 

Finally, in the midst of the craziness in the wee hours of the morning yesterday we did get some other very exciting news....

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John's sister Boo and her husband Matt welcomed our beautiful new niece Sophie yesterday morning. We absolutely cannot wait to meet her, and we are glad we happened to be awake to hear she was coming! 

Hope everyone is having a great week and staying dry...

xoxo,

Emily

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