Roads Flooded, Rivers Rising Across the Deep South

By Jay Reeves | February 12, 2020

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Roads were flooded and rivers were rising across the Deep South on Tuesday after a day of heavy rains that once again filled a Mississippi lake where a dam previously was in danger of failing.

The National Weather Service said minor to moderate flooding was expected from central Mississippi to north Georgia following downpours. The Tennessee River was predicted to crest about 7 feet (2.1 meters) above flood level at Perryville, Tennessee, on Sunday.

Multiple roads were covered with water or washed out because of rainfall that exceeded 5 inches (7.6 centimeters) in spots across central Alabama, and forecasters said totals could reach 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) by nightfall.

Schools opened late or closed in parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana because of flash flooding.

In eastern Mississippi, officials in Starkville said the water at Oktibbeha County Lake had once again reached a critical level just weeks after heavy rains caused a mudslide that put the earthen dam in danger of failing.

Pumps had been used to lower the lake level by about 8 feet (2.4 meters) since mid-January, the Starkville Daily News reported, but the water rose again because of storms.

“I am concerned with the amount of rainfall we are expected to receive this week, we could possibly exceed the level where we were in January,” said a statement by Kristen Campanella, emergency management director in Oktibbeha County.

The Tennessee Valley region has received 550% of its normal rainfall during the past seven days, James Everett, senior manager of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s River Forecast Center, said in a briefing. Rainfall averaged around 6 inches (15 centimeters) across the valley, but some places got as much as 9 inches (23 centimeters).

“We’re getting a brief break in rainfall today, but we expect it to pick up tomorrow through Thursday,” Everett said.

To manage all of the water, the TVA will continue storing water in large mountain reservoirs to help reduce flooding downstream, Everett said. The agency plans to adjust its strategy for water storage and flows depending on how much more water falls on the already saturated ground, he said.

Isolated tornadoes and winds in excess of 60 mph (96.56 kph) are possible in some areas of the South after nightfall Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

About the photo: Vehicles turn around on a road blocked by floodwaters in Helena, Ala., on Tuesday. The National Weather Service said flooding was expected from central Mississippi to north Georgia following downpours, and severe storms could follow the rain. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

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