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Deep South Towns Buried Under Floods

March 18, 1990|from United Press International

Floods that carried six people to their deaths in the rain-swept Deep South ripped open dams and buried towns under as much as 10 feet of water Saturday, forcing hundreds to flee and threatening to chase thousands more from their homes, authorities said.

Major flooding was reported in Alabama, inundated by up to 17 inches of rain Thursday and Friday, and in Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia, where roads and bridges have been washed out by 7 inches of rain since Friday.

A spell of warm, dry weather in the East gave way to cooler air and showers and thunderstorms that stretched from New England and New York state south to northern Florida.

A dam on Kinchafoonee Creek, north of Preston, Ga., burst Saturday, driving up water levels downstream by 6 inches an hour, the National Weather Service reported.

A sundered levee on the Pea River sent another surge into the already flooded town of Elba, Ala., leaving the downtown covered by 8 to 10 feet of water and forcing 300 or more people from their homes, police said.

Most of downtown Brewton, Ala.--inundated when floodgates upstream on the Conecuh River were opened to protect a threatened dam--also was under several feet of water, forcing several hundred people to evacuate, Mayor Ted Jennings said. There was extensive property damage, he said.

Evacuations also were ordered in the town of Enterprise. And another 100 people were evacuated along the Coosa-Tallapoosa River system from Anniston to Montgomery.

The National Weather Service projected that the Alabama River would crest Monday some 20 feet above flood stage in the state capital of Montgomery and 13 feet beyond its banks in Selma, causing severe flooding in residential and business areas.

Authorities reported Saturday that six people drowned in Alabama's southern Covington County, just north of the Florida panhandle, after a car was swept away by floodwaters Friday night as it tried to cross a bridge that had been washed out.

The Ocoee River in southeast Tennessee spilled over its banks early Saturday and poured a foot of water into the town of Copperhill, where massive flood damage occurred following a storm one month ago, forcing evacuations.

Parts of northwest Georgia reeled from the combined effects of flooding and thunderstorm-spawned twisters Friday that uprooted trees and knocked out power to thousands of residents.

The Chattahoochee River at Atlanta was driven to its highest level since at least 1979 and was expected to crest at Columbus and Tailwater, Ga., at the highest peak since the floods of 1964, the weather service reported.

A tornado struck Rockdale County, south of Atlanta, on Friday evening, damaging about 200 homes and knocking out electrical service. No injuries were reported.

Flooding in 10 western North Carolina counties swamped roads and bridges and forced more than a dozen people to leave their homes. Flooding also was reported along several South Carolina rivers.

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