Cars splash through high water along U.S. 31 on Thursday after a storm dumped more than three inches of rain in a short period of time. | Special to the Enquirer: Jacob Hamilton
Cars splash through high water along U.S. 31 on Thursday after a storm dumped more than three inches of rain in a short period of time. | Special to the Enquirer: Jacob Hamilton

Archived Story

Rain puts damper on July 4 holiday

Published 3:23pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An unusual rainstorm, which dumped more than five inches of precipitation on Hartselle and surrounding areas Thursday, put a damper on July 4 celebrations, flooded several low-lying streets and caused minor property damage.

Hartselle residents who had made plans for outdoor holiday festivities were disappointed when they awoke Thursday morning to dark clouds and a steady downpour. Any hope of a break in the sky was dashed by weather forecasts of four to six inches of rain during the day in North Alabama.

By 11:30 a.m., six to 10 inches of water had accumulated in low-lying areas of several city streets and forced them to be closed. At the same time, rising water was creating ponds of standing water in several residential neighborhoods.

A rain gauge at a home on Sparkman Street measured 5.6 inches of rain Thursday, according to a Twitter report. Rainfall in the Decatur area was reported as high as seven and one-half inches.

Traffic on U.S. 31 slowed to a crawl when water knocked out the traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Alabama 36 and inundated sections of the roadway across from O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and closed one of two southbound lanes north of Lowe’s.

“It was a mess,” said public works foreman Glen Hollingsworth. “I saw water in places I’d never seen it before.”

He and five co-workers spent most of the day in the rain monitoring water levels on streets, putting up barricades and cleaning trash out of drainage outlets. They also had to remove uprooted trees from North Railroad Street and Ausley Bend Road.

Streets blocked due to flooding included Stewart, Railroad, Holloway, Highway 31 North, Mitwede, Tunstill and Peach Orchard roads

“Fortunately, we came out of it in pretty good shape,” said Mayor Don Hall. “I’m only aware of one building having water inside. Cahoots Restaurant (Main Street) had water in the pit area of its dining room. Bill Smelser and I walked Main Street round 2:30 p.m. and didn’t see signs of water damage in any of the other store buildings.

“Two of the issues we noted were the accumulation of trash in street drains and the waves made by moving vehicles on streets covered with water,” Hall pointed out. “We may want to consider closing Main Street and detouring traffic the next time we have a rain like this one.”

Hall said flooding that occurred in the city’s flood plain could’ve been worse had city and Hartselle Utilities employees not joined forces and cleaned out a drainpipe under CSX Railroad earlier this year.

“We’re pursuing the construction of a storm water retention pond north of the Hartselle Fine Arts Center,” Hall pointed out. “It would improve our drainage system and lessen the likelihood of something like this from happening again. Hopefully, it will be operational by this time next year.”

Hartselle Utilities experienced an emergency during the rainstorm when an eight-inch water main on Nix Street ruptured, causing water pressure to fall.

HU engineer Glen Partlow said the break occurred around 9:15 a.m. and affected mostly customers who reside north of Highway 36.

“It took awhile to locate the break because of all of the storm water,” Partlow said. “Luckily, a customer spotted it in front of his house and called us. We had the line repaired and service fully restored about 4 p.m.”

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