Torrential Rains Took 1 Life, Forced Dozens to Evacuate in Alabama

September 23, 2009

Days of torrential rain apparently claimed one life in Alabama and forced about three dozen residents to flee their homes or be rescued from vehicles as gullies overflowed with muddy red water and yards turned into lakes.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin said a dive team recovered the body of James Dale Leigh, 22, of the Sand Valley community, from a pond where he drowned. Witnesses said he was walking on the pond’s rain-soaked bank Monday when it collapsed beneath him.

A sheriff’s spokeswoman did not immediately return a call concerning the death.

Bibb County emergency management director Wayne Hayes also said 27 people were rescued from homes in Brent in the dark of night amid a torrential downpour.

“They were all asleep, and it was more water than the storm drains could take. Some could walk out, but we had to use boats for others,” he said.

The storms Monday forced road closings across west and central Alabama, and Bibb County school officials called off classes.

The rain has pounded the area in off-and-on torrents for several days, leading to a total of 31 evacuations in Bibb County, with more storms in the forecast.

“It’s been a long, long weekend,” said Hayes.

The National Weather Service said as much as a foot of rain fell in northern Greene County in less than 24 hours and that numerous roads were closed off in mostly rural west Alabama.

Tuscaloosa County sheriff’s spokesman Andy Norris said three people in the southern part of county were evacuated as pounding rain sent floodwaters into homes.

“It was really deep,” he said.

One man evacuating fell into the water leaving his front door. “When the guy stepped off, he missed the step and the water came up to his neck,” Norris said.

Hayes said a man was rescued Monday afternoon when he was trapped in his car in West Blocton.

“He tried to drive across a road that was covered by a creek,” Hayes said.

At Brent, some businesses sandbagged doors, but floodwaters swept into stores, including one housing food for the elderly.

“They had to throw away the stuff that got flooded,” said Judy Suttle at City Hall.

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