Flooding returned to Gadsden County after the rains soaked the area April 30, May 1 and May 2. The Robertsville Fire Station was threatened when the adjacent field-turned-lake’s banks began lapping at the station’s door. Similarly, houses were faced with flooded yards and farm equipment was confronted with drenched terrain.
“Each storm system we get dumps so much rain, the ground doesn’t have enough time to dry out before another storm moves in,” said Jeanie McDermott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “That’s what’s been happening this spring.”
The problem was present throughout the area surrounding the station. Parts of Mt. Hosey Cemetery were completely submerged, including several of the gravesites. Earth around some of these stones had begun to wash away. And at least one casket had pushed upward, forcing open the top of its cement vault.
“There isn’t too much we can do,” said Arduster House, a deacon at Mt. Hosey Church. “We just have to deal with the way it is — and hopefully we don’t get this much rain again.”
House said his church’s cemetery was not the only one flooded. He also said the only thing the county can do is dig more ditches to try re-routing the water — but any place to which they may re-route the water is already filled.
“We’ve had a real wet spring — much wetter than normal,” said McDermott. “April is usually our driest month.”
According to the National Weather Service, on April 30, Gadsden County received 2 to 5 inches of rain, depending on the part of the county. On May 1, the county received 1 to 2 1/2 inches. And on May 2, the county received about another half-inch.
This amount does not exceed the amount of precipitation experienced in many three-day periods. But with the ground already super-saturated in spots with no natural or engineered drainage, flooding can ensue.
Before the rain hit Gadsden County, a clear front had formed April 29, stretching roughly northeast to southwest, bisecting the Panhandle. This mass of precipitation extended as far west as Texas and as far north as New York. The formation, moving west, cut across the eastern part of Jackson County, almost reaching Gadsden on April 29.
By April 30, the formation moved into Gadsden while continuing to pour rain in excess of 10 inches on one day alone in the western portion of the Panhandle, namely southern parts of Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.
Beginning on April 30, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for much of the Panhandle, including Gadsden County.
“Everyone on both sides of us was torn up,” said Maj. Shawn Wood of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s office. “We were lucky.”