Buckets of rain, but no major damage
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Tropical Storm Claudette spawned a tornado that tore across East Brewton and is being blamed for an 18-car pileup that resulted in 10 deaths in Butler County, but the swift-moving weather system left only a wet calling card as it passed through Atmore.
The storm reportedly dumped between 4 and 8 inches of rain on the community in less than four hours, swamping vulnerable city streets and inconveniencing local motorists without causing injury or any major property damage.
“We had severe flooding issues,” noted Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks. “With that much rain, the drains were doing all they could do. Once the rain stopped, the water slowly started pushing out.”
Brooks said his department was frustrated by the refusal of some drivers to heed the yellow tape and wooden barricades that marked streets deemed most impassable or dangerous.
“Unfortunately, we had to stop a few vehicles that were going through the barricades, and we issued one citation for going through,” the police chief said. “People should know that if police tape is put up, that street is closed. I know people have places to go, but we do that for their protection, to help protect their vehicles from being damaged and to keep from putting lives in danger. Plus, in the low areas, we put the tape up to keep the wake from pushing water into people’s houses.”
Brooks said police officers had to push one vehicle from the water after it stalled out along Nashville Avenue.
Fire Chief Ron Peebles said AFD crews “went everywhere and did everything” as the storm raged Saturday morning.
“We had to deal with flooded streets and flooded-out cars mostly,” Peebles said, pointing out that firemen had to remove a tree that fell across the intersection of 4th and Clark streets. “At one point, we had to shut down (U.S.) 31 on both ends of town because it was flooded.”
The fire chief said his department responded constantly to the city’s northeastern quadrant after a brief power outage set off battery operated smoke detectors.
“There were a bunch of them, and we have to check each one of them out,” he said.
The public safety chiefs were in agreement that Claudette could have been much more than the nuisance it turned out to be.
“We were extremely blessed, especially considering other areas like East Brewton (where the EF2 tornado caused significant damage but no serious injuries),” said the police chief. “To my knowledge, we had no damage to residential or commercial buildings, so we came through it better than we could have.”
“All in all, we came out good,” Peebles agreed. “Mainly, it was water that was our biggest problem. The storm came through here fast, dumped a bunch of water everywhere, then moved on.”