Storm causes minor flooding, accidents

By AMBER BOLLMAN Daily News Staff Writer
Mother Nature pulled a hit-and-run on Okaloosa County Thursday, pummeling several areas with heavy rains and pea-sized hail during the height of afternoon traffic.

Emergency calls about downed power lines, traffic accidents and disabled vehicles flooded the county’s dispatch centers between 4 and 6 p.m., when a band of severe weather whisked through from the west and gathered strength from a smattering of offshore storms.

"It all just collided right over Fort Walton Beach," said Andrew Stasiowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, Ala.

Stasiowski estimated that some areas near the center of the storms may have received two inches of rain within that twohour window.

A wind gust of 40 mph was recorded at Choctawhatchee High School, but Stasiowski said there may have been stronger gusts elsewhere in the county.

Okaloosa County Sheriff ’s Office spokesman Rick Hord said the depart- ment received weather-related calls from Destin to Crestview.

A power pole was snapped in half near the intersection of Mayflower Avenue and Denton Boulevard, while another power line came down across the roof of a home in Shalimar.

Several cars stalled after being flooded on the Cinco Bayou Bridge and some of its neighboring streets, and Craft Cleaners on Eglin Parkway reported that its interior was completely flooded.

Bad weather exacerbated the frustrations of motorists on U.S. Highway 98 between Destin and Fort Walton Beach. Traffic inched across Okaloosa Island as visitors to the Emerald Coast Boat Show filtered onto the highway from parking lots on both sides of the street.

A leaky roof caused the ceiling to partially collapse inside Merrill Lynch on Racetrack Road, but Okaloosa County Emergency Manger Randy McDaniel said the roof was intact and undamaged.

Ocean City-Wright and Fort Walton Beach firefighters also responded to a trailer fire on Mar Walt Drive that may have been weather-related.

The trailer, which became engulfed with flames at around 5:15 p.m., was being used for storage.

No one was hurt in the blaze, though one firefighter was treated for minor injuries.

Staff Writer Amber Bollman can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 445, or amberb@nwfdailynews.com