It's worse than with any hurricane or tropical storm Iíve seen.
Dan Roll, American Red Cross
While hurricane season doesn’t officially start until June 1, recent tropical-like rainfall in Florida found many residents cleaning up from flooding, or waiting for the water to recede, instead of focusing on usual holiday activities over the Memorial Day weekend.
Less than a month ago, emergency officials were warning the severe drought could produce damaging wildfires, Instead more than 1,000 buildings have been damaged following record May rains.
In parts of the state, Volusia County (in which Daytona Beach is located) in particular, it is estimated that $52 million in damage has already been reported. The early estimate assessments show 967 buildings have already been reported damaged. As people return to their homes and businesses over the next few days, that number is expected to rise dramatically.
David Gaul, 33, and his daughter Ana, 5, were staying at the American Red Cross shelter set up at Daytona Beach’s Westside Baptist Church with 48 others trying to escape the flood. They woke on Friday to find dirty water seeping under the door of their duplex apartment.
“The street was flooded like a river and water got into the car when I opened the door. That’s how deep it was,” he said. “But we had to leave. We couldn’t stay at home because water was getting in there too. We just took the stuff we have to have and left.”
It’s not just the streets adjacent to "the world’s most famous beach" that are under water. Several miles inland, the Daytona International Speedway is better suited for speedboat races than for high-speed automobiles with nearly a foot of water on the track.
According to the National Weather Service, nearly two feet of rain has fallen in parts of central Florida (including Daytona) during the past two weeks. It is expected that the rain will continue to fall in scattered downpours across the region until Tuesday when it will begin the more traditional pattern of afternoon thunderstorms.
For now, water continues to rise, chasing people from their homes and making driving a hazard across much of central Florida.
"I've never seen this much rain," said Dan Roll, executive director of the †Florida Coast to Coast chapter of the American Red Cross. "It's worse than with any hurricane or tropical storm I’ve seen."
Eleven central Florida counties were declared disasters by Florida’s governor Charlie Crist. The declaration allows the activation of the National Guard if necessary to help people to safety. It allows government agencies to waive some rules in order to respond to the emergency and suspends some toll collections.
While the May drenching is slowing slightly, there is one more thing to occupy the minds of those who watch the weather. The official June 1 start of hurricane season is only about a week away.
Some prognosticators are saying the unusual weather patterns we have already seen this year, make it more difficult to predict the kind of hurricane season the Atlantic region will have this year.
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report released last week a “near normal” hurricane season is expected† this year. They said there is a 70 percent chance that there will be nine to 14 named storms, with four to seven hurricanes, and up to three major hurricanes.
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