Heavy rains flood Fla. homes; man drowns in Gulf

Associated Press Modified: June 11, 2012 at 7:15 am •  Published: June 11, 2012

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Flood warnings stretched along the Gulf Coast from Florida's Panhandle into Mississippi as locally heavy rain Monday threatened a repeat of weekend downpours and storms that damaged homes, blacked out a jail and spun off at least one tornado in Alabama.

A 23-year-old Mississippi man drowned off Florida's Pensacola Beach and more than a dozen other swimmers were ordered out of rough surf amid heavy rain that caused widespread flooding over the weekend, officials said. The Pensacola News Journal (http://on.pnj.com/KvdzhV) said the man's name has not been released.

The newspaper also reported the storms forced the evacuation of a 200-unit apartment complex in Pensacola. Many residents found severe flood damage when they returned Sunday afternoon. Officials say electric power could be restored at the complex Monday.

The National Weather Service said rip tides from the storms were a danger along the coast and locally heavy rain could cause more flooding through Monday afternoon, although the intensity of the downpours was abating.

A tornado connected with the storm system also uprooted trees and destroyed chicken houses Sunday in southeastern Alabama, where an emergency official said a few homes were damaged but no injuries were reported.

"I actually saw it myself coming out of our church door — my first tornado I have ever witnessed," said Margaret Mixon, emergency management director for rural Geneva County.

More than 600 inmates at the Escambia County Jail in Florida were without power and air conditioning after the rains left more than 5 feet of water in the bottom floor, which also houses the laundry and kitchen facilities.

Extra deputies were brought in to beef up security, and generators powered lights outside the facility to shine into the jail. Officials worked Monday to pump out the excess water and restore power.

"The whole electrical system is underwater. It's going to be extensive damage," said Sgt. Mike Ward.

The parking lot of the sheriff's office was completely flooded, leaving some patrol cars and other fleet vehicles with water up to the hood. Some homes and businesses also had several feet of water inside, Ward said. Authorities estimated $3 million to $4 million in damages at the sheriff's facilities.

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