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Alabama Floods Leave Five Dead

March 8, 1998

ELBA, Ala. (AP) _ A creek swollen by four days of rain burst through a levee Sunday, flooding this southeast Alabama town and forcing about 2,000 people out of their homes. Five deaths were blamed on the weather.

Water also closed many roads across southern Alabama, and emergency officials warned of continued flooding for the next couple of days.

Gov. Fob James declared a state of emergency in the southern half of the state and ordered the National Guard out to help with evacuations and sandbagging.

Water from Beaver Dam Creek, a tributary of the Pea River, rushed into downtown Elba during the morning, filling streets up to 6 feet deep, Fire Chief Lloyd Driggers said.

He said he was forced to abandon his own vehicle when water rose past the windows.

About half of the city’s 4,000 residents were evacuated, some by boats and others lifted out by Army helicopters from nearby Fort Rucker, said Scott Adcock, a spokesman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Susan Reed said she fled her home so quickly that she left her medicine behind.

``When we saw it coming, we left,″ she said.

Elba’s levee was rebuilt after it failed during a 1990 flood that sent water up to the roofs of some homes and businesses. Officials thought it would withstand another flood.

``But obviously El Nino threw them a curve ball,″ said resident Wesley Thompson.

The Mobile District commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Col. William S. Vogel, went to Elba to examine the levee.

Up to 95 percent of the roads in nearby Covington County were impassable because of flooding, said Sheriff Wilbur Mitchell.

Authorities found the body of a child and a 59-year-old man who were in a vehicle that was swept away by the water Sunday morning, Police Chief Ronnie Whitworth said.

At rural Gantt in Covington County, a motorist drowned early Sunday when he drove into a washed-out section of road, the sheriff said.

Two people died Saturday during thunderstorms in Mobile, 128 miles southwest of Elba. One was struck by lightning and the other was swept into a drainage ditch.

In addition, one woman was killed by lightning Saturday in Louisiana during storms that dropped hail up to 7 inches in diameter.

Update hourly