Flooding Continues as Storm Moves With AM-Elena
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ As Hurricane Elena made a slow turn to the northwest Sunday, severe flooding continued along Florida’s west coast, Panhandle and low-lying areas across the state, officials said.
Gov. Bob Graham ordered the evacuation of low-lying areas in 15 inland counties Sunday. Steve Hull, a spokesman for Graham, said the extent of flood damage would be impossible to determine until after the storm moves on.
In the Tampa Bay area, strong winds and storm-surged tides six feet above normal brought the flooding and virtually isolated Pinellas County, said Ken Klein, a Department of Transportation spokesman.
High winds forced the closing of the Sunshine Skyway bridge and three others in the region on Sunday, and U.S. Highway 19 in Pinellas and Citrus counties was under water. Farther north, officials in coastal Levy County closed Highway 24 from U.S. 19 to Cedar Key because of flooding.
In the Shore Acres section of St. Petersburg, streets looked like canals. And on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard there was enough water to paddle a boat.
Low-lying areas around Gainvesville were evacuated Saturday night after eight inches of rain fell and about 1,500 people crowded into 15 Alachua County shelters overnight.
But many people headed home Sunday to take a bath and look after pets and their homes.
″If they want to go home, we will let them. We tell them to listen to the radio and if we holler, come back,″ said Ernest Wigglesworth, a spokesman for Alachua County Civil Defense.
In Jacksonville, on the east coast, Civil Defense officials said many streets remained closed Sunday, flooded by three day rain totals of nearly 10 inches.
A flood watch was in effect for much of north and central Florida, where the weather service said another 10 inches of rain was possible.