Flood waters plague river communities

Published 11:00 pm Monday, January 12, 2009

Following the rains from last week, the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers each crested on Sunday, both reaching what is termed as the “moderate flood” stage. Both rivers are now receding, and should reach normal levels later this week, with the Black Warrior River falling below flood stage by late Wednesday morning and the Tombigbee River falling below flood stage by Saturday morning.

The Black Warrior crested at Selden Lock and Dam in Greene County at 102 feet on Sunday, 12 feet above its flood stage of 90 feet. Lake Demopolis crested Monday at 82.25 feet, 9.25 feet above its level pool stage of 73 feet, and the lower pool below the dam crested Sunday at 78.27 feet, 10.27 feet above its flood stage of 68 feet.

It is the Black Warrior River that affects so many homes at the southern end of Greene County just across the river north of Demopolis. Longtime residents in this area are accustomed to the river rising into their yards from time to time, but this level is one of the highest that many residents have seen in a while.

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Most say that it is the highest since 2001, and only that flood and the historic flood of 1979 brought more of the river to their front doors than this week’s flood.

Scott Williams has to navigate his truck down the rivulet that once was Cypress Cove Road to get from his house to Greene County Road 16, then to U.S. Highway 43 just across the Rufus King Memorial Bridge that crosses the border between Marengo County and Greene County.

His sole means of getting to the store or to run other errands is covered by up to three feet of water in some places, and it can be hazardous, even in a large-size pick-up truck.

His father, Johnny Williams, talked about the risks he takes coming home at night.

“If I come in at night, and the lights go under water, I can’t see,” he said. “I’ve had that happen before. When that happens, you just guess at it. It’s scary then, because if you veer one way or the other, then you could be in deep trouble.

“We’ve been trying to get the county to build the road up a little bit through here, where we could get in and out.”

The Williamses have lived in the Cypress Cove area for about 10 years, and have seen the river rise and fall over the years. It has helped them prepare for high waters.

“For the most part, this time of year, we try to stay prepared,” Scott said. “We were able to stock up.

“I was out of town when the flood hit (this week). (The rest of the family) picked up and tied down whatever they could, and when I came in around 3:00, I did whatever I could until dark.”

“We try to save our food and eat leftovers so we don’t have to leave for a while,” said Scott’s daughter, 8-year-old Anna Williams.

While the previous high-water events were in April 1979 and April 2001, the intemperate weather over the last week brought rainstorms that helped to gorge the local rivers. People living close to the rivers are advised to keep an eye on the water level whenever flooding is imminent and make preparations, should the worst happen.