Rivers hit flood level, engulfing low-lying areas

Published 9:56 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Waters from the Alabama River — swollen from recent heavy rains — creep closer to entering the Sand Bar Restaurant at the City of Selma’s Marina. Owners of the restaurant were able to remove most of the items from the restaurant ahead of the rising waters, but were unsure of just how far the river would get before cresting. --Tim Reeves

Dallas County residents have seen little sunshine and a whole lot of rain during the past few days, in fact, the entire county averaged between six and eight inches of rain during the past four days.

According to Jessica Talley, meteorologist from the Birmingham Weather Service, Selma received approximately 7.06 inches of rain between Sunday, Feb. 10 and Wednesday morning, causing several areas to issue flood warnings.

“The Cahaba River at Marion Junction is in what we call ‘action stage.’ It’s not actually in flood stage, but it is high enough to cause some nuisance-type problems,” Talley said. “Then the Alabama River at Selma looks like it’s going to crest just below the minor flood stage. Currently it’s at 41.31 feet and flood stage is 45 feet, and typically we see that river below 30 feet.”

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This means that over the course of four days of nearly non-stop rain, the Alabama River rose almost 15 feet above normal, Talley said.

Talley explained that when the Alabama River goes into minor flooding, it means that the low-lying lands around the river begin to become flooded and some of the lower roads in the area could become flooded once the river nears 45 feet and above.

And several county roads did become flooded early this week. Coosa Jones of the Dallas County Engineers office, said County Roads 3, 4, 109, 182, 326 and 924 had closed because of the rain.

Jones said County Roads 3, 4 and 109 have since reopened, but the rest will remain closed until the water recedes.

“We had a tremendous amount of rain — over 7 inches. The last information we had was that the rivers are going to crest Thursday, and it just depends on how long it takes to recede,” Jones said. “[Those roads will remain closed] for the next few days, we just don’t know how fast it is going to go down.”

Jones said they close the roads whenever they are either submerged or are unsafe for the public to travel on.

Talley urged residence to use extreme caution when traveling in severe weather.

“The biggest thing is don’t drive through flooded roadways. With the rain tapering off, we’re not expecting too many more problems but now and really any time, our slogan is ‘turn around, don’t drown,’” she said. “Flooding is the number one weather-related fatality. People think it’s going to be tornadoes and hurricanes, but flooding actually kills more people on average than anything else.”