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Heavy rains flood homes, jail in Florida Panhandle

MIAMI (AP) — Floodwaters from torrential rains damaged homes and closed roads throughout the Florida Panhandle, cutting power to the county jail and sending residents to emergency shelters as the area braced for additional rains Sunday.

More than 600 inmates at the Escambia County Jail were without power and air conditioning after the rains left more than 5-feet of water in the bottom floor, which also houses the laundry and kitchen facilities. Extra deputies were brought in to beef up security, and generators powered lights outside the facility to shine into the jail. Officials worked Sunday to pump out the excess water and assess the damage.

“The whole electrical system is underwater. It’s going to be extensive damage,” said Sgt. Mike Ward.

The parking lot of the sheriff’s office was completely flooded, leaving some patrol cars and other fleet vehicles with water up to the hood. Some homes and businesses also had several feet of water inside, he said. Authorities estimated $3 million to $4 million in damages.

More than 100 residents spent the night in three Red Cross shelters in Escambia County on Saturday night, including residents from a 50-unit apartment. Navy officials also set up housing for residents of a 22-home subdivision evacuated because of flooding, according to Red Cross officials.

It’s difficult to assess the damage because many roads in Escambia County are still flooded.

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