Crews across north Alabama prep for flooding

(Source: WAFF)
Updated: Feb. 18, 2019 at 7:32 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Work is underway on many different levels to prepare for the threat of flooding this week.

Cities and counties across north Alabama are gearing up for the impact of heavy rainfall and rising water.

Senior Meteorologist Andrew Pritchett and his team at the National Weather Service in Huntsville are staying on top of the weather as the latest data comes in and sharing that information with local governments and agencies.

“This is a very strong system for this time of year,” Pritchett said.

Meteorologists pointed out what areas could be hit the hardest.

“The Tennessee River at Whitesburg is projected to go into major flood stage. The last comparable flood was in 2003 and there was some significant flooding on the Tennessee River near Ditto Landing and also along the basin of Aldridge Creek,” Pritchett explained.

NWS Huntsville is staying in touch with the various Emergency Management Agency offices and the media to keep the public informed.

They’re also communicating with the River Forecast Center in Slidell, LA, and with TVA in regards to what the rivers are going to do.

Pritchett says the NWS will be keeping an eye on the Tennessee River at Whitesburg and places all along the Tennessee River.

The Tennessee River is a river system and so what happens upstream in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee will impact North Alabama.

All that water is going to flow south and west into the Tennessee Valley.

“I've been in the National Weather Service for 11 years and this is definitely shaping up to be one of the bigger rainfall events of my career and certainly for our area,” Pritchett added. “Looks like the closest thing might be the Christmas flash floods from 2015 and even going back to May of 2003. This is certainly not something that happens every week or every year. This is shaping up to be a big heavy rainfall and potential flood event for our area.”

Areas near bodies of water, as well as creeks and streams, will be affected, along with the typical flood prone areas.

“Flooding typically kills more people than lightning or tornadoes combined in any given year. If there are flood warnings out, we want folks to be aware of the forecast and to heed those warnings and that includes staying off the roads and avoid driving in areas that are flooded,” Pritchett stressed.

The potential flood impacts will occur over a wide area.

“It’s not really going to matter if you get 7 or 8 inches. Just be aware of the threats and aware of that fact that we are expecting flooding and runoff concerns throughout the entire week,” Pritchett stated.

On Monday and Tuesday afternoon at the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, officials gathered to hear the latest from the National Weather Service and prepare their crews for what’s to come.

“We have everything set up. We already have our barrels loaded and barricades ready in case we have to close some roads off. We’ll have a standby crew all during the day and night too,” said Mike Gentle with Madison Public Works.

“We look at what could happen. Hobbs Island Road could be flooded. The road out to Rock Cut Road could flood. That leaves Governors as our only way in from Albertville and Guntersville and the Hampton Cove area so be careful. Take your time,” added Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Ditto Landing was forced to close because water is already over some of the roads. Campers were evacuated and no traffic is allowed on the property until it’s safe and the water recedes.

Brandi Quick, the executive director, says they will be posting updates on Facebook about their status and conditions.

“You just need to be weather aware. Go ahead and start getting your plans ready on what you’re going to do if you’re faced with a flooding situation,” said Madison County EMA Director Jeff Birdwell. “We stay in constant contact with the National Weather Service which is a great partner for us. We’re also meeting with various responder agencies- public works, fire, police, EMS- and starting to have those conversations about if this happens, what are going to do.”

NWS Huntsville officials say since there’s been a lot of development across North Alabama, lots of people have moved to the area who may not have witnessed flooding events in years past so they ask the public to keep checking the forecast.

“Our window for heavy rainfall is Tuesday, Wednesday and even into Thursday potentially. And that's what makes this a unique event. This is a long duration event. It's going to rain every day- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and maybe even into Sunday. Again, the window for our heaviest rain is Tuesday through Thursday,” Pritchett said.

A flood watch is in effect from 6 a.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. Friday.

Latest forecasts on Monday afternoon were slightly lower with rainfall totals.

“Even if amounts are lower we still expect significant flooding issues across the TN Valley,” NWS Huntsville tweeted.

It’s also Severe Weather Awareness Week. EMA officials say this week’s forecast is a prime example of why you need to have a plan in place to be ready for different threats.

In preparation for this potentially hazardous weather, the City of Huntsville is reminding residents of the following:

  • Remove  debris from gutters. Take  a look at your neighborhood curbs, gutters and inlets. If they are blocked  and you are able, clear any debris that might be blocking the natural flow  of water. If you need the City of Huntsville’s assistance in removing  these blockages, submit the request via Huntsville Connect, the City’s service request app, or call  Public Works at (256) 883 - 3944. If calling outside of normal  business hours, call the Huntsville Police Department’s non emergency  number (256) 722 - 7100.
  • Exercise  patience and caution on the roads. Obey the speed limit and drive with caution. Plan ahead  and allocate additional time to travel to and from work. If you see  standing flood water, do not drive through it. 
  • Prepare  for additional delays in garbage pickup. The City of Huntsville is currently operating on a  one-day delay pick up schedule due to City offices being closed on  February 18 for the Presidents’ Day holiday. As City crews prepare for  and respond to localized flooding, it’s possible garbage pick up could be delayed further. 

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