Tuscaloosa flooding causes damage, drainage concerns

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:11 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - People inside Alabama Express felt like they were in an aquarium as they watched water rise outside of business Saturday.

They spent all day Monday cleaning up and drying out.

“Well the worst thing is the cleanup. I don’t have an office for the next few weeks. We’ve got a game coming up to get ready for. The lower part of our store was flooded. We have to wipe it out, dry it out. So if it damaged merchandise it’s just one thing after another,” Co-owner David Jones explained.

Some of the worst flooding in Tuscaloosa happened on The Strip near the University of Alabama campus. Rooms in several buildings on campus got water inside of them. Fans were running and signs were posted to be careful of wet floors.

Flash flooding also affected part of Tuscaloosa north of the Black Warrior River with two massive sinkholes formed on Afflink Place off Rice Mine Road.

Mayor Walt Maddox called the rainfall that caused these problems historic.

“You had some places on our rain gauges that got two inches of rain and others got five inches of rain,” the Mayor told WBRC.

Jones said fans have been running inside his store since this past weekend to dry out from Saturday’s flooding in Tuscaloosa. He felt this kind of flooding on The Strip happens far too often.

“Last time we had one of those was five or six years ago. They told me it was a 100-year flood. And they couldn’t do anything about that. But the funny thing is it’s the fourth one we’ve had in 15 years,” Jones continued.

Jones believes parts of the city are growing too fast for the infrastructure and drainage needed to stop flooding like Saturday’s from happening.

“I think a lot of the extra concrete and all the apartment complexes we have within a block of here that kills drainage. And the drainage pipes we have are not big enough and the sewers cannot handle it,” Jones continued.

WBRC asked Mayor Maddox about Tuscaloosa’s recent flooding. He said the city’s drainage was not built to handle the amount of rainfall it experienced recently.

“I’d hate to mislead people and say you can build infrastructure to take on a 500-year flood event. You can’t, there’s no way,” Maddox expressed.

He said the city’s rainfall is 17-inches above normal.

On Saturday, some parts of the city registered five inches of rain in an hour and a half.

“It’s very adequate. It’s adequate to meet up to 25 to 100-year standard. The problem that you run into in the last couple of months we’ve just had abnormal amounts of rain,” Maddox said.

Maddox added the area on the The Strip that included Jones’ business had more than four inches of rain and that the system could not handle so much rain in so little time. He confirmed the city is monitoring the drainage system and keeping it clear of debris since there’s a chance of more rain over the next few days.

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