Heavy rain heightens threat of flash flooding in Alabama

Published 11:09 pm Monday, August 25, 2008

MONTGOMERY – A severe storm system packing the threat of tornadoes traveled across parts of Alabama on Monday, dumping large amounts of rain that caused flash flooding in some counties.

Most of the state was under flash flood or tornado watches or both for much of the day. Eleven counties including Elmore, Montgomery, Pike and Chambers were to remain under a tornado watch until 8 p.m. and the National Weather Service in Birmingham issued and flash flood watches through Tuesday morning.

Meteorologist Holly Allen said the service had received reports of damage such as uprooted trees and downed power lines from a few areas but they would not know if the damage was caused by tornados until survey crews were dispatched on Tuesday.

She said Monday’s events were likely the worst Alabamians would see from the system spawned by remnants of Tropical Storm Fay.

“Fay will continue to slowly move northward (Tuesday). It won’t be like today with continued rain, it should be more scattered and widespread,” she said Monday.

“As the cycle continues to move northward the threat for isolated tornados will move as well,” she said. “We won’t have that threat tomorrow.”

Runoff from the heavy rain flooded some creeks, roadways and low-lying areas.

The weather also led dozens of schools to close and Gov. Bob Riley to cancel an appearance in Mobile. Ironically, the Prattville Tornado Relief Golf Tournament was scheduled Monday to raise funds to be used in the recovery from a February tornado that damaged or destroyed 200 homes and 40 businesses in the city.

Several roads in the Bayou La Batre area in south Mobile County were closed due to flooding. Heavy rains combined with high tide to force the closing of the Causeway between Mobile and Spanish Fort, detouring traffic to the Interstate 10 Bayway until conditions improve.

Forecasters say most flood deaths occur in vehicles and warned against driving into areas where water covers the roadway.

Alabama health officials also urged Alabamians to use caution when coming across flood waters, saying it might contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems.

In a press release Monday, the Alabama Department of Public Health warned that flooding from Fay could result in contaminants being washed into streams, creeks, rivers and coastal waters.

Those with open cuts or sores that will be exposed to flood water were advised to keep them clean by washing well with soap to control infection and seafood caught from flood waters should be cooked thoroughly before eating, officials said.

Houston County Emergency Management Agency Director Clark Matthews told the Decatur Daily that Fay gave emergency officials a chance to test their preparedness in case a stronger storm strikes this season.

“We’ve had some training exercises, but you can’t simulate what we had this weekend,” Matthews said. “We feel like we are as ready as we can be. Of course, there is no way you can be fully prepared for a Category 3, 4, 5 hurricane.”

– The Associated Press