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Flood threat continues in the South for rest of the week

  (Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Thunderstorms have been disturbing the peace across much of the Southeast this week. Despite temperatures in the 30s and 40s in some cities, the storms have been producing hail and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, in addition to flooding from record-setting winter rain coming down fast and furiously. Some of the worst storms so far have been in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In Brentwood, Tennessee (Williamson County), just south of Nashville, two cars were nearly submerged in flood waters near the YMCA on Concord Road. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but many other roads in the area have been impacted or closed because of flooding. Several roads in Chattanooga, Tennessee, home to FreightWaves headquarters, have also been closed due to high water.

 Flooding in Mississippi on February 20, 2019.
Flooding in Mississippi on February 20, 2019.

Many schools in Huntsville, Alabama, either opened late today (Wednesday) or cancelled classes in anticipation of more flooding. The storms became scary in Mississippi this morning when the Calhoun County Sheriff Patrol had to rescue a woman from her car that stalled in flood waters on County Road 210. Other parts of the county were flooded, too. Law enforcement and Emergency Management officials are asking everyone not to drive through areas that look flooded.

Many parts of the Southeast had plenty of rain late last week. All the additional heavy rain that has quickly returned is turning into runoff because the ground is saturated. This is a huge burden on drainage systems, as well as creeks and small rivers, forcing them to overflow their banks. With more downpours and flooding expected for the rest of the week, people who live in low-lying areas or flood zones will be at risk for home and property damage.

 Best odds for flooding on Thursday, February 21, 2019, as of Wednesday afternoon, February 20.  (Source: NOAA)
Best odds for flooding on Thursday, February 21, 2019, as of Wednesday afternoon, February 20. (Source: NOAA)

In order to ease the flood threat, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has opened the gates at all 49 of its dams. According to TVA officials, Wilson and Wheeler Dams in northern Alabama were spilling at 1.6 million and 1.5 million gallons per second, respectively, this afternoon. The spill rate at Chickamauga Dam in Tennessee was 900,000 gallons per second. Also, TVA is storing water in several of their tributary areas to help forestall flooding. These precautionary measures will continue all week and possibly into next week, depending on the exact intensity of future rain.

Truckers should expect delays for the next several days in the Southeast along the I-20, I-24, I-40, and I-65 corridors. Additional roadblocks are likely as the storms and floods keep coming.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued Flood and Flash Flood Watches a few days ago, followed by Flood and Flash Flood Warnings as flooding became imminent. More Warnings will likely be posted as several more inches of rain are forecast across the region. These alerts, available on this interactive map, are constantly updated as conditions change. You can also look for weather updates on the FreightWaves website.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.