National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

The Recent Flooding in Alabama was
Widespread...but not Historic

The heavy rain and associated flooding that occurred across Central Alabama during the Christmas holiday period in 2015 was widespread, but not unheard of.  Most of the rivers in Central Alabama went into flood, mostly minor, and widespread flash flooding occurred over the area.  However, looking back in history, we can see that this is not the first time this has occurred. Let’s take a quick look at just a couple of these.

 

April 2014

We only have to go back to April of 2014 to find a similar flood event.  During that event, four to eight inches of rain fell over much of Central Alabama during a three day period, and resulted in widespread river flooding and significant flash flooding.  In Central Alabama, seventeen river forecast points rose above flood stage, with five of them reaching moderate flooding.  Severe flash flooding also occurred in some areas, most notably in parts of Jefferson and Shelby counties, where at least 79 homes suffered flood damage in portions of Pelham, Indian Springs Village, Wilsonville, Alabaster and along Highway 119 in Shelby County.  Numerous evacuations and high water rescues were necessary, with 120 water rescues required in Homewood from the Lakeshore Garden Apartments.  Seventy nine luxury cars were reportedly lost from a Vestavia Hills car dealership near Patton Creek.  Elsewhere, in Greensboro in Hale County, some homes were flooded as well as in Opelika in Lee County.  Many rural roads in Lamar County became flooded and impassable.

April 1979

Further back in time, we still remember the spring floods of 1979.  A storm system moved across Alabama in early April and brought extreme rainfall with four to eight inches of rain across north Alabama and rainfall totals as high as 10-15 inches in the western counties. The heavy rain then shifted south and east, with 4 to 5 inches falling over Lake Martin in a two hour period. Record or near record flood crests occurred along much of the Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Sucarnoochee Rivers with severe residential and commercial flooding in areas such as Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, Gainesville and Livingston. Thousands of acres of farm lands, woodlands, and pasture lands were flooded, as well as numerous camps and cabins along these rivers.

Widespread significant, but less severe, flooding occurred on other area rivers, including the Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Cahaba Rivers, with some residential flooding occurring in the vicinities of Montgomery, Gadsden and the Tallapoosa Water Plant.

In addition to all of the river flooding, there was significant flash flooding across the area as the heavy rain fell.

When all the floodwaters had receded, damage was estimated at $75 million with at least 15 deaths in the state.

In summary, the recent flooding that we have experienced was widespread but not unprecedented.  In the near future, we are looking at a somewhat drier weather pattern than that experienced in late December. However, with El Nino still on-going, and more storm systems likely to affect Central Alabama this winter and spring, we will need to monitor weather conditions and forecasts in the event that more flooding like we've seen recently occurs again.