The death toll from flash floods caused by torrential rains in Alabama has risen to four. Forecasters say as much as 13 inches of rain from a slow-moving front covered roads, trapping people in cars and homes. All four of the deaths occurred when water swept away vehicles, and the victims include a 4-year-old girl who died in northeast Alabama. A flood watch remained in effect Thursday for parts of metro Birmingham, and most of the state is under a flood warning. Three feet of water filled a Piggly Wiggly near the Florida line, and 250,000 gallons of wastewater overflowed from sewage systems in Baldwin County.
Metro Birmingham remained under a flash flood watch, and meteorologists predicted another wet day for most of Alabama and parts of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. As much as 5 more inches (13 centimeters) of rain was possible through Thursday evening, the weather service said.
The rain caused havoc in places across north Alabama, submerging cars in metro Birmingham and parts of the Tennessee Valley. Rescue crews helped motorists escape as low visibility and standing water made travel life-threatening in some areas.
Some of the worst flooding happened in Pelham, outside Birmingham, where 82 people were rescued from homes and more than 15 were pulled from vehicles after up to 13 inches of rain sent creeks and streams overflowing their banks, the Pelham Fire Department said early Thursday. More than 100 rescuers were involved in the effort, as were 16 boats, the statement said.
The Alabama deluge comes about seven weeks after flooding killed more than a dozen people in Tennessee.
In south Alabama near the Florida line, water covered streets in the flood-prone Escambia County towns of Brewton and East Brewton, inundating a shopping center and sending as much as 3 feet (1 meter) of water into the community’s main grocery store, Piggly Wiggly. Two schools had to cancel classes, said Escambia Sheriff Heath Jackson.
“We’re hoping that the rain is going to stop so we can get some of this water … out of here,” Jackson told WKRG-TV.
To the south, in Baldwin County, as much as 250,000 gallons (946,000 liters) of waste water overflowed from sewage systems along Mobile Bay, officials said.
With rainfall totals already ranging from 2 inches (5 centimeters) to as much 6 inches across the state this week, forecasters said another 3 inches (8 centimeters) of rain was possible, with the heaviest rains to the north.
Severe storms and a few isolated tornadoes from a slow-moving low pressure system were a threat, mainly in the afternoon, forecasters said. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for northeastern Alabama, northwestern Georgia and southern Tennessee.
Rains should end in Alabama by late Thursday as storms move eastward. Flash flood warnings were in effect through Friday along the weather front, stretching from the Florida Panhandle through northern Georgia and mountainous regions of the eastern Tennessee and the western Carolinas.
Back in Pelham, Michael Halbert waded through his neighborhood to a townhome that filled with more than 40 inches (102 centimeters) of water. He tried to get items off the floor, but still lost some of his belongings, and his Jeep filled with water outside.
“Flood insurance is going to have fun,” he said.