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Weather Strikes Christmas in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

For many Alabamians, Christmas 2015 was overshadowed by the severe weather that struck flooding creeks and spawning tornados.

Early on Christmas Day, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) declared a state of emergency for all 67 Counties due to the severe weather.

South West Birmingham and Midfield were struck by a tornado on Christmas night that destroyed homes.  Flooding was severe in many places across the state; but nowhere worse than in Coffee County where the rising floodwaters threatened the levees which protect the town of Elba.  Volunteers spent their Christmas day filling sandbags to defend the levees.

Governor Bentley said, “While our entire state has been impacted by the Christmas Day severe weather & floods, please keep the people of Coffee County in your prayers. These families have lost so much, in some cases their entire homes to floods. Many had to spend Christmas night in an Elba shelter. I had the opportunity to hear their stories today, and assess the situation in Elba with local officials as we are all watching the rising Pea River, expected to crest today. As always, neighbors are taking care of neighbors in our great state, and Alabamians are always ready to help one another.”

Elba City officials discovered a leak in the levee directly underneath the US Highway 84 bridge.  City crews, under the direction of Army Corps of Engineers technical experts, have repaired the leak and have taken steps to mitigate future damage from the leak. The repair work caused officials to temporarily close the highway. Currently, US Highway 84 is open across the Pea River.  Mayor Mickey Murdock requested the assistance of the Alabama National Guard to provide relief personnel to city crews who have been on a 24-hour rotation. The Guard members are patrolling the levee area and assisting with sandbagging as well as providing additional support for the city.

Gov. Bentley also visited tornado survivors in a Birmingham shelter.  On Sunday, Bentley joined Birmingham Mayor William Bell and US Representative Terri Sewell (D) in a tour of the Birmingham area.

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Congresswoman Sewell said, “Storm damage hit Wenonah community and parts of Fairfield on Christmas Day. Grateful to Hopewell Baptist Church, Pastor E. E. Rodgers, Commissioner Sandra Little Brown and the many pastors and concerned citizens that are helping in the recovery. Our prayers are with all those impacted by the severe weather this holiday season.”

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On Saturday Governor Bentley announced on Twitter, “Here in Elba the Army Corps of Engineers says the levee is working great. They expect the river to crest tonight.”

A mother and her two children died on Christmas day in Chilton County.  Another two people were killed in Coffee County.

Because of the heavy rains, Alabama Power will continue operating spillway gates for the next few days at Weiss, Henry, Logan Martin, Lay and Jordan dams on the Coosa River, and Thurlow Dam on the Tallapoosa River.

Alabama Power announced that Weiss Lake on the Coosa is expected to peak near elevation 568 feet, which is about 4 feet above summer pool elevation, on or around Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Logan Martin Lake is expected to peak near elevation 470 feet, about 5 feet above summer pool, on or around Tuesday, Dec. 29. Also Wednesday, Smith Lake, on the Warrior River, is expected to peak near elevation 516 feet, about 6feet above summer pool.

Weiss Lake on the Coosa is expected to peak near elevation 568 feet, which is about 4 feet above summer pool elevation, on or around Wednesday, Dec. 30.
Logan Martin Lake is expected to peak near elevation 470 feet, about 5 feet above summer pool, on or around Tuesday, Dec. 29. Also Wednesday, Smith Lake, on the Warrior River, is expected to peak near elevation 516 feet, about 6feet above summer pool.

A variety of factors, including additional rain, could affect these peak projections. Alabama Power will provide updates if necessary.

Alabama Power will continue to closely monitor conditions on the lakes and manage resources carefully. Individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities should always be alert to changing conditions on Alabama Power reservoirs and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect their property. For details about Alabama Power lakes, visit https://apcshorelines.com or add the free Alabama Power Shorelines app to your mobile device.

The tornado in Birmingham damaged the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in the Hillman Station neighborhood in Birmingham and reportedly left a path of destruction about three-quarters of a mile wide.  There was also a tornado touchdown in Tuscaloosa County.

On Sunday Governor Bentley said, “28 roads are still closed across the state. Please stay away from flooded roads. It is dangerous to drive through flood waters.”
Additional heavy rain could make the situation even worse

More severe weather is predicted for Monday.  Storms are expected to roll into West Alabama beginning at 9:00 am and move across the state through the day.  Isolated severe weather and isolated heavy rains are possible.  Given the saturated ground conditions flash flooding is possible.

Since World War II more Alabamians have died from tornadoes than in any other state.

(Original reporting by Alabama Power’s news center, WSFA TV, WBRC 6, and the Alabama Media Group contributed to this report.)

 

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