The rain that didn’t stop

Published 8:01 pm Monday, June 15, 2009

We were having a training session in Birmingham, and it was one of those heavy downpours that usually lasts for a short period then stops. Folks, it didn’t stop. It came down for hours.

As we watched the news, it seemed like it had stalled over Central Alabama—and, more especially, Lay and Mitchell lakes. I asked to be excused and rushed home to see if I could help.

When I got to Higgins Ferry, I couldn’t believe it. The water was up to the house and almost up to the parking lot! Boat houses with boats in them, boats loose, mobile homes, small buildings and all sorts of debris was passing by at a fast clip, soon to have its encounter with Mitchell Dam with all her flood gates open.

There was nothing anyone could do. They would either pass over the dam to destruction or pile up at the wall and have the water pressure crush them and then go to the bottom.

Meanwhile, there was a slight problem at headquarters: The patrol boat is trapped in the boathouse, above the door opening, as the rising water was about to crush the top of the boat against the rafters. Only one way to go!—No!—Not through the top! Kenneth Ray came by and had his chainsaw and started cutting the rafters and braces, and as we started to take her out the top, the water stopped rising and in fact started down just as fast.

A freak storm had just stalled over the area. All the creeks and streams rushing in was more than these two lakes could handle even with all the floodgates that we have. Would you believe that they were to have a bass tournament next morning and did! They caught some fish, too.

In a couple of days, they had called me to report to Demopolis! I trailered my boat, scratching my head trying to figure the logic. A National Guard helicopter met me and gave me a tour of lots of flooded water. I met with the sheriff, mayor, police, a senator and a representative. They didn’t pass up the opportunity to have the media there and spread the news that thieves were looting the flooded riverfront property. All those houses were under water! The crest was 74 feet! Oh, it was a mess, there’s no question. I would have liked to have been home so I could help people with their property.

In Demopolis, I had to launch my boat in a city street and be concerned about utility wire, debris, two giant lumber companies nearby and lumber scattered everywhere. The biggest threat as I saw it was the big, loaded barges just tied up to trees, which could easily uproot or break off.

The Tombigbee, as you know, does not have the type dams as we do and therefore no flood control. We were blessed that our flood control could move our water on through with minimal damage. —Want to be back Cruisin’