As it begins its trek through Louisiana, Tropical Storm Harvey is being felt across the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama.
Rain and plenty of it, compliments of Harvey, is forecast to inundate the area at least through Thursday across southeast Mississippi, southwest Alabama and northwest Florida.
“We’ve already received in the Pensacola Metro four to six inches; we’ve seen a couple of isolated gauge reports of seven inches,” says meteorologist Jason Beaman at the National Weather Service in Mobile.
“Obviously, it’s still raining and we expect a lot of rain through [Thursday], an additional two to five inches,” said Beaman. “We can’t rule out locally higher amounts of six to eight inches, especially there in the western Panhandle, which is going to be a favorite area for heavy rains.”
A flash flood watch remains in effect until 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. In downtown Pensacola all streets are said to be open except for Fisher between 11th and 12th. Expect road closures on 17th at the Trestle, and on Reus St. from Government to Garden off and on today, during periods of heavy rain.
Escambia County reports no major road issues at this time. More information can be found at www.myescambia.com/roadissuesmap. A spokesman in Santa Rosa County says they’re “doing OK for the most part,” with a road or two that are open with hazards.
Lt. Eddie Elmore with the Florida Highway Patrol urges motorists to use extreme caution during the afternoon commute. The first rule of thumb: slow down on wet roads.
“A lot of people don’t even realize that if the speed limit’s 55, and it’s raining out, then you need to reduce your speed a little bit, so you can have better reaction time,” says Elmore. “And the vehicle itself will be able to stop in time, if you do see a hazard.”
If your vehicle begins to go into a skid, or “fish tail,” the first rules of thumb are: don’t panic, and never hit your brakes.
“Let off the accelerator, maintain your vehicle as straight as you can,” Elmore says. “If the back end starts coming to the right, you want to turn your vehicle a little bit to the right, so that you steer into the rotation. And hopefully, it will straighten right back up.”
And Elmore says drivers considering a crossing of standing water in the roadway, need to make sure what they’re doing.
“You reduce your speed, and common sense is the key here, and just travel as slowly across that water as you can,” says Elmore. “If you see flowing water across the roadway and you can’t see the pavement or the lines in the roadway, don’t cross it.
“Because that area may be washed out. And what you think is maybe a foot of water, could be six feet of water.”
Flights in and out of Pensacola International Airport continue to be impacted due to the severe weather. Travelers are asked to check their carrier’s website for updates in flight status and rebooking information before arriving at the airport.
Meanwhile, another Tropical Storm, Irma, is churning through the Atlantic and beginning to receive some attention from forecasters. Meteorologist Jeff Huffman is with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN) says it’s far too soon to talk specifics.
“But the two simple facts that a formidable storm is out there and the peak of the [hurricane] season is nearing, should be reason enough alone that all Floridians should stay informed,” said Huffman.
The Panhandle and south Alabama are also catching a break of sorts. Rather than turn to the east, forecaster Jason Beaman says Harvey is heading to the north-northeast through Louisiana, and gaining speed.
“By [Thursday] it should be closer to northern Mississippi and Arkansas,” said Beaman. “And as Harvey finally begins to move into the Tennessee Valley, that will kind of shut off by Friday and much better-looking weather heading into the weekend.”