Heavy rains bombard Walton County

Lauren Sage Reinlie | Northwest Florida Daily News

After a long night of lightning, thunder and relentless rain, residents of Walton County, like most of Northwest Florida, awoke Wednesday to water, and lots of it.

For Eddie Long, 61, that meant walking down the stairs from the second story of his Santa Rosa Beach home into about four feet of water that had flooded into the first floor.

“I got up at 5 and was ready to go to work and I couldn’t get any farther than the steps,” he said.

He put on some shorts, waded into the yard and found water had risen over the hood of several cars. Seven motorcycles, an RV, all flooded. Perhaps ruined.

“We just called in having a bad day,” he said as he stood on Mack Bayou Road, the street running in front of his house, surveying the damage.

Other residents fared better.

After a restless night’s sleep, Shelly Swanger, 47, stepped outside her home nearby and was shocked to find water as far as the eye could see. Her entire yard was flooded, with water rising up to her porch, but not breaching the entrance.

About six to eight feet covered Church Road in front of her home.

“It’s like white water rapids flowing over the street,” she said.

She hopped in a Jeep and tried to see what other areas looked like, but quickly found all the roads around her house were impassable.

Dozens of cars were abandoned and people walked in waist-high water to try to get to dry ground.

Her neighbor had piled a group of kids in a boat was paddling along.

“This is the strangest thing I’ve seen in awhile,” she said.

Water blocked major intersections on U.S. Highway 98, including over six feet at the intersection with County Road 395, and most people were stuck in their neighborhoods.

Lisa Shirah, 43, was able to get from her home in DeFuniak Springs to work at Crystal Bay in Santa Rosa Beach, but when she arrived she found the parking lot flooded. The water had started to recede but had been over the hoods of dozens of cars at the assisted senior living facility earlier that morning.

“I’ve got to wade in,” she said, taking her shoes and socks off and stowing them in a plastic bag.

She hopped out of her truck with her pants rolled up and stepped into the water.

“We’re just making the best of it.”