Nightly News   |  April 30, 2014

High Water and High Drama in Florida Panhandle

First responders on boats rushed to rescue dozens of panicked families in a Pensacola apartment complex.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> weather system that left behind a death toll of 35 from the tornados it spawned churned over the south overnight dumping as many as 18 inches of water, five inches in the space of one hour and because flash flooding kills more people every year than tornados or hurricanes, the rising water is a huge danger. it's a wild figure but the u.s. gee -- go -- geological survey estimates two trillion gallons of water will fall on the south and east coast today. roads giving way, power out for over 40,000 people and the rescues continue. we begin with gabe gutierrez in pensacola . good evening.

>> reporter: brian , good evening. the water may with reseeding but the scope of this disaster remains massive. more rain fell here than during hurricane ivan , a decade ago. in the florida panhandle today, high water and high drama. first responders on boats rushed to rescue dozens of panicked families trapped at this pensacola apartment complex. she escaped with her one-year-old daughter.

>> all my memories, baby's things, everything i own is gone.

>> reporter: the governor declared a state of emergency as entire roads were washed away. this collapse swallowing unoccupied cars.

>> i walked out this morning and couldn't believe it, never seen anything like that.

>> reporter: the downpour reached the height late tuesday night shutting down i-10 and leaving drivers trapped in the vehicles, some for up to ten hours. one woman died when she drove her car into high water . even this fire truck was no match for the rising flood waters stalling and awaiting rescue. the area saw up to two feet of rain in 24 hours . five inches drenched pensacola in a single hour. nearly 6,000 lightning strikes were recorded in just 15 minutes . for the south, it was the latest round of severe weather after days of destruction. in alabama , more water rescues from mobile to summerdale, in georgia, one person died when a tree smashed their car and in north carolina , a possible tornado roared through.

>> her life was more important, to me it was.

>> reporter: back in pensacola , three waterline workers were on their way to work this morning when they noticed something.

>> i was concerned with how fast and rapidly the road was caving in.

>> look at the manhole right there.

>> reporter: in the rising water, a woman trapped in her car, they took action fast, scrambling for a nearby excavator.

>> she said please, don't let me die. i looked in her eyes, and that's all i needed.

>> reporter: they managed to hoist katrina shannon to safety just in time.

>> thank y'all. you saved my life.

>> reporter: with all this debris, the cleanup here will take quite awhile. forecasters think it was record rainfall, but it's really hard to tell because the power to the nearby national weather service recording station was knocked out during the storm, brian ?

>> what a mess there in pensacola . gabe starting us off there. gabe, thanks.

>>> mike seidel witnessed a lot of weather in the past 72 hours . we'll in for more tonight and tomorrow. he happens to be in summerdale, alabama for us tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian . the six inches of rain, nearly six inches of rain in one hour is once in a 500 year event. all that water here on the fish river , led to a record crest this morning. take a look at the radar, dc and baltimore under flood warnings. the wettest day on record and in baltimore the heavy rain washed out this road, at least six cars tumbled to the railroad tracks below. it's being seered by this freaky blocking pattern that looks like a giant tilted s. the white is the moisture shooting up the east coast today. the best news, some severe weather this evening and that tornado threat is much lower than it has been the past couple days. another two inches of rain in spots and watches and warnings up in a dozen states tonight and tomorrow and brian , back here in the fish river , it's expected to drop below flood stage , that's 11 feet by noon tomorrow.

>> we'll take good news wherever we can get it. mike seidel in alabama tonight. mike,