Local News

Flooding Recedes Rapidly in Southern Alabama as...

Posted July 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Streams driven out of their banks by Hurricane Danny's deluge dropped rapidly today, allowing residents to return to homes stained with mud as high as the rafters.

``It's just so devastating,'' Julie Brinson said as she returned home today to search for her antique jewelry collection. ``There was no time. There was just no time to take anything with us. The flood waters came up so fast.''

Water was 4 feet deep Sunday in Mrs. Brinson's home along the Fish River but had drained out by today.

Fish River, a short stream that winds through flat country 20 miles southeast of Mobile, jumped 12 feet Sunday after Danny stalled along the Alabama coast, dumping an estimated 30 inches of rain in three days over parts of Mobile Bay. That's almost half the area's normal rainfall for an entire year.

A bridge over the river at the town of Fish River was all but covered by water Sunday; this morning, the water level was about 20 feet below the span.

The short-lived hurricane, which also wrecked fishing boats and did minor damage to buildings in Louisiana, was just a low pressure area today, drifting northward with wind blowing at a sustained 12 mph, the National Weather Service said. Rainfall had stopped in the coastal counties and at the city of Mobile, but continued at a rate of 2 inches an hour in parts of western Alabama, where flood advisories were in effect.

The storm killed one man caught at sea in a sailboat. Another man died of a heart attack while trying to secure a boat.

Some 1,800 people were in shelters at one point, state officials said, although most had returned home today.

Homes and businesses had wind and water damage across southern Alabama, and Danny destroyed one marina and a condominium complex that was under construction. Dozens of roads were washed out, and scores of boats sank at their docks or were set adrift.

Many lost furniture and personal belongings such as photographs to the flooding.

``I guess it took everything out,'' Paul Utter said Sunday at the fire station in Marlow.

Mrs. Brinson said she was left without any dry clothes and had to borrow clothes to attend the funeral of an uncle today.

Nearby, Paul Utter said he had never experienced anything like Danny during his 32 years of living along the Alabama coast. He returned to his Fish River home this morning today and found that the water had been up to the rafters. Although the water had drained away, he couldn't get in the front door because his refrigerator had floated up against it.

``I'm going to have to strip everything out of it. We're going to have to gut the house,'' the 67-year-old retiree said.

Most electrical service had been restored by this morning. Rescue workers were setting up portable kitchens and the Salvation Army sought donations of food and money.

No damage estimates were available yet today. But in a wide area of coastal Baldwin County, ``almost every county road has a blowout, a washout, a tree down or a power line across it - and sometimes all of the above,'' said Leigh Anne Ryals, an emergency services spokeswoman.

Jeremy Lewis, emergency medical technician with the Marlow fire department, said evacuation efforts stopped at Sunday dusk with a couple dozen people electing to remain in their homes. Rescue workers began checking on them this morning and reported no immediate problems.

Johnny Norris, a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, initially refused to leave his mobile home early Sunday. But later in the day, Norris, his three dogs and six puppies had to be rescued by boat.

He went back today and found that the water had crested just shy of his front door.

``I'm doing good now that I know my house is OK,'' Norris said.

Farther west, in southeastern Louisiana, the storm had wrecked about 50 fishing boats and caused mostly minor damage to hundreds of houses.

By JESSICA SAUNDERS,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.