The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 2, 2014

State still mopping up after 2 feet of rain


Associated Press

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — As a weekend with little rain in the forecast approached, residents in many parts of Alabama were still clearing debris and assessing damage after more than two feet of rain fell in some areas in a two-day span, according to radar estimates.

The storms also brought fierce winds and tornadoes in several areas. National Weather Service crews on Thursday surveyed several areas and said at least 15 tornadoes ranging from EF0 to EF3 touched down in central Alabama between April 28 and 29.

Survey crews were expected to evaluate more storm-damaged areas on Friday and issue another report.

Also on Thursday, Gov. Robert Bentley sought additional federal aid for the state. He wrote the president seeking an expedited major disaster declaration to provide individual and public assistance for Alabama counties. The application initially included Baldwin, Lee, Limestone and Jefferson counties, but Bentley said more counties could be added later.

If granted, the assistance could include temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.

Bentley had originally sought an emergency declaration on Tuesday that would help counties with debris removal and assist in other recovery efforts.

In south Alabama, some of the heaviest two-day rainfall totals for Tuesday and Wednesday ranged from 22 inches to 26 inches over Perdido Bay, Wolf Bay, Foley and Orange Beach, based on National Weather Service radar estimates, Al.com reported. The deluge led to serious flooding along the Gulf Coast. Authorities said there were at least 30 rescues in the Mobile area.

Capt. David Spies of Fish River/Marlow Fire and Rescue said he was part of a team that found two women and a young boy trapped in the attic of a modular home. Spies said the first call for help came before midnight Tuesday but the three weren't found until about 8 a.m. Wednesday. By then, the water was 2 feet below the roof. A firefighter used an axe to punch a hole through the roof and free them.

"They were very scared, they were very upset," Spies said.

The saturated soil was also creating severe delays for farmers.

Planting has been brought to a stand-still in many of the state's southern counties as farmers wait for their fields to dry out, said members of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Bert Driskell of Grand Bay in south Mobile County, says he is typically finished planting corn by now, but he currently has less than 50 percent in the ground.

The farm group says conditions are similar across south Alabama. In Washington County, farmer Walt Richardson said he had 10 acres of corn underwater. In Henry County, farmer Thomas Adams said fields were very wet with standing water.

In hard-hit Mobile County, the weekend forecast called for only a 20 percent chance of showers Friday, with dry weather expected Saturday and Sunday.

Dry weather was also expected Friday through Sunday in the Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville areas.