4 motorists rescued, roads closed in drenched southern Morgan County
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
A Falkville woman who clung to a tree after floodwaters swept her car off the road was one of four motorists rescued after storms Wednesday dumped up to 4.5 inches of rain in southern Morgan County and forced numerous road closings.
Morgan County Schools held remote learning Wednesday through Friday because road conditions were expected to remain hazardous. The Alabama Department of Transportation had to close a stretch of Alabama Highway 36 Thursday afternoon because of rising floodwaters from Cotaco Creek.
Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mike Swafford said the Falkville woman was hanging on to a tree when rescuers found her off of Wilhite Road in the Lacon community, east of U.S. Highway 31 near the Morgan-Cullman county line.
Charles Porter, water operations captain of the Morgan County Rescue Squad, said the woman, believed to be in her 30s, was returning from Cullman County when she tried to drive across a bridge over a creek on Wilhite in her Honda at about 9:15 p.m.
“The water was so deep and so fast, it washed her vehicle off the road and down the creek about 100–200 yards,” Porter said.
He said the Morgan Rescue Squad and Falkville Fire and Rescue units arrived about 9:30 p.m. and had to locate the woman amid rain, howling wind, darkness and engine noise from a train stalled on a washed-out track.
“She was screaming, and it was kind of like a game of tag,” he said. “It was a daunting task to pinpoint the exact spot where her voice was coming from.
“We were walking in chest-deep water in the dark trying to find her. When we finally located her, we launched our inflatable raft and paddled to her. She had been washed into the woods, not too far from her car.”
Porter said the woman was hugging a tree and was able to climb into the raft with a little help. It was about 11:45 p.m. before she was on dry ground, he said.
The woman was transported to Cullman Regional Hospital for observation, Swafford said.
“She had no apparent injuries but exposure in the water,” he said.
Porter said two other motorists were rescued along East Lacon Road and Old U.S. Highway 31 Wednesday night. “We found four vehicles along the roads that were disabled but not occupied,” he said.
Thursday afternoon, the Morgan County Rescue Squad and Falkville Fire and Rescue performed another water rescue of a motorist trapped by floodwaters along Huckabee Bridge Road in Falkville, according to Danny Kelso, chief of the county rescue squad.
Porter warned motorists not to attempt to drive through swift water.
“If the roadway is flooded, don’t try to cross it,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of moving water to wash a car away.”
The Alabama Highway 36 closure was in both directions between Herman Bailey Road and Collins Hill Road. The portion is 2.5 miles east of Alabama Highway 67, according to ALDOT spokesman Seth Burkett.
Burkett said he was unsure when the highway might reopen, and he urged motorists to avoid the area. He said motorists can check algotraffic.com to check whether the road has reopened.
The National Weather Service said most of the Tennessee Valley received between 2–3 inches of rain and wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour Wednesday night, but parts of southern Morgan County received a heavier drenching.
Alabama Highway 67, Eva Road, Hogan Road near Alabama Highway 157 and Lawrence County 150 near Lawrence County 314 all had trees blocking traffic at one time Wednesday, according to authorities.
Morgan County Schools originally planned to delay the start of classes by two hours Thursday but later decided to use virtual-only instruction.
Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp. spokesman Mike Cornelison said two trees fell on power lines and left about 300 homes without power for about three hours Wednesday night. He said some neighborhoods in Priceville and Valhermoso Springs were mostly impacted when the fallen trees snapped two poles.
“We had a few other scattered outages, but power was restored by 10 p.m.,” he said.