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Roads flooded, rivers rising across the Deep South

Vehicles turn around on a road blocked by floodwaters in Helena, Ala., on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. The National Weather Service said flooding was expected from central Mississippi to northern Georgia following downpours, and severe storms could follow the rain.

JAY REEVES/AP

By JAY REEVES | Associated Press | Published: February 11, 2020

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Roads were flooded and rivers were rising across the Deep South on Tuesday after a day of heavy rains that once again filled a Mississippi lake where a dam previously was in danger of failing.

The National Weather Service said minor to moderate flooding was expected from central Mississippi to northern Georgia following downpours. The Tennessee River was predicted to crest about 7 feet above flood level at Perryville, Tenn., on Sunday.

Multiple roads were covered with water or washed out because of rainfall that exceeded 5 inches in spots across central Alabama, and forecasters said totals could reach 6 inches by nightfall.

Schools opened late or closed in parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana because of flash flooding. A flood watch stretched from eastern Texas to Mississippi, and parts of Alabama were under flood warnings.

In Cullman, north of Birmingham, the sheriff’s office said Deputy Adam Clark and his police dog were injured badly in a wreck that occurred during heavy rains overnight. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

In eastern Mississippi, officials in Starkville said the water at Oktibbeha County Lake once again had reached a critical level just weeks after heavy rains caused a mudslide that put the earthen dam in danger of failing.

Pumps had been used to lower the lake level by about 8 feet since mid-January, the Starkville Daily News reported, but the water rose again because of storms.

“I am concerned with the amount of rainfall we are expected to receive this week, we could possibly exceed the level where we were in January,” said a statement by Kristen Campanella, emergency management director in Oktibbeha County.

Officials also were monitoring the site of a potential dam failure in Yazoo County, where the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said a 40-acre lake in a subdivision was leaking around a culvert and washing away dirt, threatening four homes and a church. Five homes were evacuated after a levee breach in Leake.

Elsewhere in Mississippi, 25 homes had been damaged and four people were hurt in wrecks caused by vehicles hydroplaning on wet roads, according to the state. The damage was worst in Yazoo, where a dozen people were displaced from homes.

The Tennessee Valley region has received 550% of its normal rainfall during the past seven days, James Everett, senior manager of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s River Forecast Center, said in a briefing. Rainfall averaged about 6 inches across the valley, but some places got as much as 9 inches.

“We’re getting a brief break in rainfall today, but we expect it to pick up tomorrow through Thursday,” Everett said.

To manage all of the water, the TVA will continue storing water in large mountain reservoirs to help reduce flooding downstream, Everett said. The agency plans to adjust its strategy for water storage and flows depending on how much more water falls on the already saturated ground, he said.

Isolated tornadoes and winds in excess of 60 mph are possible in some areas of the South after nightfall Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

Associated Press reporter Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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