NewsApril 30, 2014

Epic Rains Deluge Florida Panhandle & Parts of Alabama

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

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Strong storms have been moving over the Southeast since this weekend, spawning tornadoes from Alabama to Arkansas. On Tuesday they trekked further east, spreading heavy rain across the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle. Rainfall totals for many cities in those regions were so high that they were closer to hurricane totals than spring storms.

Mobile, Ala., received 11.24 inches of rain, its third highest daily rainfall total. Pensacola, Fla., set an all-time daily record with an estimated 15.55 inches of rain falling. And by Wednesday morning, some weather watchers were reporting much higher totals in the Pensacola metro area according to the Florida Climate Center. Both totals are more than double the average precipitation expected for the two cities for March and April combined.


With so much rain falling in such a short period, widespread flooding has been a problem for the region. Heavy rain has saturated soils and undermined roadways across sections of the Gulf Coast. Flooding continues to linger, particularly in urban areas where paved surfaces are keeping water trapped. There are also concerns about river flooding in the region flooding over the next 48 hours as water works its way downstream.RELATEDColorado’s ‘Biblical’ Flood in Line with Climate Trends
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Changing Rainfall Patterns in the U.S. 

Dramatic rainfall events like this one have increased across the U.S. and are in line with climate change trends. In the Southeast, the frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased by roughly 25 percent over the period of 1958-2011, despite the fact that portions of the region have experienced an overall drying trend.

Aerial drone footage of Pensacola the day after major flooding.

The rise in greenhouse gases from human activities have warmed oceans, which has helped increased evaporation. They've also warmed the atmosphere, which means it can hold more moisture. Both these factors have contributed to the increase in precipitation extremes for many regions of the world. 

Editor's note: The National Weather Service released a new estimate of Pensacola rainfall due to an equipment malfunction. The story has been updated to reflect the new information.

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