Tornadoes give way to flooding

A mailbox indicates just how high the waters in south Alabama have risen during the severe weather.
A mailbox indicates just how high the waters in south Alabama have risen during the severe weather.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Saturday's storms dumped heavy rain across much of Alabama flooding homes and cars. The heavy rains even created a large sinkhole in Wetumpka. The hole swallowed a car on Hill Street while the driver was still inside. Medics took the woman to the hospital, where she was expected to be ok. The severe rains are suspected to have played a role in creating the hole.

In southeastern Alabama a state of emergency was declared by Houston County officials. Flooding has become a major concern and longtime Dothan resident Amy Peterson said she's never seen it before. "In places it would be to my was like a river that was coming toward my back door" she said.

Emergency crews say it's difficult managing the flood issue because of the amount of rain that has fallen. Some residents report upwards of 5 feet of water just outside their front door.

While folks like Peterson are sticking to their homes, others like Angel Crittenden aren't so lucky. Crittenden and others at an area apartment complex were forced to evacuate amid water damage. "Yeah, not today though...maybe two or three days," she said when asked if she would be able to return to her home.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at the First United Methodist Church in Dothan for displaced residents like Crittenden to stay and wait out the floods.

Also in the wiregrass Geneva County is dealing with the same issues. All county roads have been closed and folks are being urged to stay off the roadways until further notice. Scott Vance lives along Highway 52 in the town of Malvern. "I think it's going to be a mess, but I believe as much water as we've had, it's going to take a while to run off," he said. Early estimates put nearly a foot of rain water on the ground, enough to cover roads and yards.

"The last time it got this bad was 1996, we had the flood then we had to sandbag, but this is the most we've ever had since then," explained Jose Parker, who also lives in Malvern. After the waters do recede Geneva County EMA officials say they'll continue watching local river levels in hopes they don't crest.

And while south Alabama deals with heavy flooding Montgomerians are concerned with rising river levels. Along the banks of the Alabama River the water is at 34.29 feet, just eight inches below flood stage. Forecasters predict it will go even highe, to nearly 38 feet before it starts to decline again.

The Tallapoosa River is also inches away from flooding and is forecasted to rise more than four more feet. "A lot of things float down the river when it goes up," said Wetumpka resident Danny Higgins. "We've seen beaver dams, whole trees...big trees. I brought some dirt in to kind of hold the river back, but I hope it really does work."

Alabama Power opened dams Saturday at Lake Martin, Jordan, Mitchell, Lay and the Coosa River to help move the flood waters along.

Doppler 12 StormVision Chief Meteorologist Rich Thomas said the state dodged a bullet when it comes to tornadoes. The torrential rain cooled the atmosphere making it nearly impossible for tornadoes to develop. However, it was a two-edged sword because of the flooding.

WSFA 12 News will continue to watch the skies and bring you further updates as they become available.