The governor of Alabama has declared a state of emergency as heavy rains, flash floods, thunderstorms, and tornadoes tore through the state. On Christmas Day the storms seemed to be at their worse, and on Saturday morning almost 200 roads in Alabama had to be closed.
The beginning of the extreme weather started on Wednesday as about 25 tornadoes were reported in the southern storm system; approximately 20 of those occurred on Wednesday followed by one on Thursday and three on Friday.
Alabama was forced to declare a state of emergency as the unseasonably warm weather severely affected the East Coast. Christmas Day reportedly saw weather more befitting a warm spring day than the winter season is known for, and on Friday Alabama bore the brunt of a tornado that touched down in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa County, causing severe floodings.
The tornado left a path of destruction two square-miles long as the heavy downpours were ongoing since Wednesday. Alabama shared the destruction along with most of the southeastern part of the U.S. The harsh weather claimed the lives of 17 persons, destroyed multiple homes, and had record breaking rainfalls. The northwest region of the state reported over seven inches of rainfall, several other counties reported six inches, and according to Bustle two counties in Alabama reported up to eight inches of rainfall.
Governor Robert Bentley released a statement on Friday as he declared the state of emergency and advised that responders would be made available to help where necessary.
“Many parts of Alabama have experienced excessive rainfall and flooding is a major concern. By issuing a State of Emergency, I have directed all state agencies to take necessary actions to be prepared to respond to the anticipated flooding across Alabama. We will actively monitor the flooding, and are prepared to respond to any requests for assistance.”
He also tweeted earlier today requesting Alabamians to be mindful of the roads and avoid trying to navigate the flooded streets even though condition improved marginally.
As conditions improve today, I encourage Alabamians to stay away from flooded areas and do not drive through the water.— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) December 26, 2015
The 190 roads that were closed by the governor’s request will impact every county in the state. The Alabama EMA also warned that bridges, along with the roads, would be impassable to the the flooding. The National Weather Service rated two rivers in the state as “major” flooding warnings late Friday evening while a “moderate” warning was given to two others and numerous more rated as “minor.” Recovery from the tornado is ongoing and in some areas a voluntary evacuation order was enacted. Inmates from Alabama correctional facility were also evacuated as a precaution.
On Friday Jefferson County was at mercy of a twister that touched down around 5 p.m., and Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Coker reported that it left four persons with minor injuries that required them to be transported to local hospitals.
A few pictures from Jefferson Avenue tornado damage pic.twitter.com/lIelfFxrEd— City of Birmingham (@cityofbhamal) December 26, 2015
According to NBC News, the floods that affected much of the city eventually required rescue crews going out in boats to aid the submerged vehicles and retrieve people. Even the mayor came out to give a hand, directing traffic as rescuers worked.
Mayor Bell directing traffic as rescuers work to retrieve people pic.twitter.com/ZgCY5Xyg0J— City of Birmingham (@cityofbhamal) December 26, 2015
The utility company Alabama Power reported that due to the storms, over 10,000 customers in Birmingham and further west of the city were without electricity on Friday night. The governor has been visiting areas affected by flooding.
Meteorologists have attributed the erratic bout of severe weather to the current warm and humid weather patterns as up and down the East Coast it has been setting record highs in temperature. The flood warning is in place until Monday.
[Photo Courtesy of Butch Dill/AP Photo]