- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

PENSACOLA, FLA. (AP) - The soggy Gulf Coast braced for another round of storms Thursday that could send already-swollen rivers over their banks and into people’s homes.

The National Weather Service said rain was forecast throughout the region for two days starting late Wednesday, and the heaviest amount was expected in the waterlogged Florida Panhandle, where some areas could see two to five inches.

To the west in St. Tammany Parish, La., emergency officials were bracing for flooding from the West Pearl River, which was already driven by previous days’ storms to more than four feet above flood stage at about 19 feet Wednesday.

Even without more rain, the National Weather Service said the river that forms part of the Mississippi-Louisiana state line could crest at 19.5 feet Thursday morning, approaching a historic crest it reached in April 1983 that caused damaging flooding.

“We’re not expected significant house flooding. We’re expecting significant street flooding,” Parish spokeswoman Suzanne Steymiest said. “But it’s hard to predict.”

Around the region, even light rainfall could add to the woes of already-drenched areas.

“All the rivers are still so swollen that it’s not going to take a lot of rain to bring them back up,” said Mobile-based weather service meteorologist Jeff Garmon.

Parts of the Southeast have seen nearly a foot of rainfall in recent days, and a few areas had upward of 17 inches. Scores of people were evacuated, but most have returned to their homes.

In Florida, Lynn Orr was waiting to see what happens Thursday before continuing to rebuild a mile of trail at the shooting range he manages off the Shoal River in Okaloosa County. He had spent much of the week on a tractor restoring the trail that was washed out by previous storms, but his work was destroyed by rains on Tuesday night.

“It was about 20 hours of work the last couple of days and we are closed again today,” he said.

But not all were gloomy over the flooding. Donnie Cooper, who lives in a mobile home behind the levee at Geneva, Ala., said it had been good for his earthworm business. As floodwaters receded, sediment left behind was rich in wigglers _ he gets about $3 for 200.

“You could just scoop them up by the handful,” he said. “I bet there were 500 more dead on the road.”

___

Associated Press Writer Jay Reeves in Geneva, Ala., contributed to this report.

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