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Torrential rain brings back memories of 2004

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of November 3, 2011)
Photo: Hydroplaning through water on the island.

Nearly four inches of rain fell in just a few hours early Monday, turning roads into small ponds, causing cars to stall out on Beachland Boulevard and A1A, and chasing students and teachers from the Osceola Magnet school – which a number of beachside pupils attend – after water began flooding the building. 

About 22 inches of rain fell on Indian River County in October, including Monday's deluge which came on top of a weekend storm earlier in the month that dumped nearly a foot on the region, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

Last month’s rainfall was the second greatest on record, according to Tim Sedlock, topped only by the 23.01 inches that fell in September 2004 when two hurricanes – Frances and Jeanne – pummeled the area.

“It was like a big hose – a fire hose – it was unbelievable,” said Emergency Operations Center Coordinator Dale Justice of the onslaught of the heavy rain that fell mostly between midnight and 8 a.m. “It came out of nowhere.”

The downpour had no place to go in the already water-logged area.  “It came down so quickly, it didn’t have a chance to run off,” Justice said.

Osceola Magnet was mostly shuttered Monday when it became apparent the school was flooding as students were arriving.  The school started notifying parents around 7:45 a.m. of the water problems and asked them to consider keeping their children at home or picking those that had already arrived if possible. It was the second time in October that flooding damaged the building. The first damage was reported after the weekend storm three weeks ago.

“This area floods when it drizzles," said one teacher who waded through knee-deep water to get into the school.  “They know this happens.”  Still, she said, sandbags which at the school were not used in time to keep the flood waters from seeping into the building. She wondered why district personnel didn't check the building during the early morning hours when the heavy rain started.

Betty Gage, an administrative assistant to Superintendent Fran Adams, said about 25 students were at the school when the school started notifying the parents of some 500 magnet school children. 

Adams said she learned of the flooding at around 7:30 a.m. and by then it was too late.

“This wasn’t predicted,” she said of the deluge. “This wasn’t forecasted. It took us by surprise. I’m sure if we would have known then we would have taken steps.” 

Adams said it will take one to two weeks to dry out the two wings of the building that were flooded and in the meantime some classes will have to be moved to other parts of the campus.

“That was a lot of rain in a short period of time,” Adams said.