Sudden storm floods cityPublished 3:09pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Much of the city of Russellville was under water Tuesday as a storm system moved through about 10 a.m. that dumped three inches of rain on the area in less than 30 minutes, officials said.
Franklin County Emergency Management Agency Director Roy Gober confirmed there was widespread flash flooding in Russellville and heavy rainfall in other select parts of the county.
“The way the storm system moved in, it completely missed Red Bay, and Phil Campbell got some heavy rain but nothing like what we saw in Russellville,” Gober said.
“I’ve just never seen anything like this. The southbound lane of U.S. 43 was completely submerged just past the Frosty Inn, and I’ve never seen that happen in my lifetime.
“There was water everywhere. The storm just seemed to stall on top of Russellville without moving for over half an hour. It was unbelievable.”
Russellville Street Department Superintendent Roy Price said the flooding he witnessed in Russellville was almost incomprehensible.
“I haven’t witnessed something like this in my 22 years [working for the city],” Price said.
“There was water across almost every road in the city, and there were many places where the road was completely covered and impassable.”
Price said crews began working immediately on the flooding issues, which stemmed from overflowing streams, creeks, culverts and drainage ditches.
“We got barricades up in some of the worst places, and we had crews with equipment trying to remove debris that was clogging up some of the culverts and drains and causing even worse flooding,” Price said.
“We have areas in the city where we know flooding will more than likely occur if it rains hard enough, but you just can’t be prepared for something like this.
“It flooded in areas that never get that far underwater. Parts of downtown Russellville were knee-deep or higher at certain points.”
Gober said the storm also caused power outages in much of the city and there were multiple reports of flooding damage in homes and businesses.
“There were several businesses in downtown Russellville that took on water, including the basement of the courthouse, the Dream Center, and First Baptist Church, among others,” Gober said.
“This really is the worst event, flood-wise, that I’ve seen in this county.”
The severe flooding and rapidly rushing waters also caused road and bridge damage, particularly at a small bridge on South Green Avenue where the asphalt covering it was washed out and mangled.
“We’ve been out surveying the roads and neighborhoods, and it’s hard to tell just how much damage there really is at this time,” Russellville Mayor David Grissom said.
“We met with the street, fire and police departments and all hands are on deck checking roadways, checking for safety concerns and doing the best we can to manage the flooding.
“This is just one of those situations you can’t plan for. Hopefully we’ll have a better idea on Wednesday of what kind of damage we’re looking at.”
At press time, Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said no injuries had been reported.
“We didn’t have any reports of wrecks or injuries during the flooding,” Hargett said. “The only reports we received were of cars that had driven off in high water and stalled.”
Hargett said street crews are working to get roads opened back up, but some areas could still remained closed Tuesday evening and into Wednesday.
“It really just depends on how well the water recedes, but there were some spots that were bad enough that the barricades may still be in place tomorrow,” Hargett said.
“We just ask that everyone continue to be cautious and avoid streets that are blocked off.”