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April 8, 2014

Heavy rains develop into deadly flooding

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Severe thunderstorms dumped heavy rains across the Southeast on Monday and caused flash flooding in central Alabama, where crews in small boats and military trucks had to rescue dozens of people from their homes and cars.

In Mississippi, a 9-year-old girl was swept away and killed after the storms dropped nearly 7 inches of rain there over the last two days. A possible tornado in another part of the state damaged homes and hurt seven people, and a motorist in metro Atlanta was found dead after driving into a creek swollen with rainwater.

Strong winds downed trees, power lines and snarled rush hour commutes.

In Pelham, just south of Birmingham, more than 4 inches of rain fell from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday. Police and firefighters rescued people who became trapped in flooded townhomes and a mobile home park.

Dozens of cars had water up to their roofs. Rescue workers wearing life jackets waded through muddy water nearly to their chests to reach stranded residents. Hundreds of more people in mobile homes on higher ground were isolated because water covered the only entrance to the complex.

Pelham Fire Battalion Chief Mike Knight said people realized at daybreak that the water, 7 feet deep in some places, was surrounding their homes. Some people had to abandon cars after driving into areas where the flood water was deeper than expected.

“It’s been a long time since it’s done this, so people kind of weren’t expecting it,” he said.

A development of townhomes along a creek in Pelham also flooded, with some units getting 4 to 5 feet of water. Some residents went to their second floors to wait for the water to recede, while others evacuated.

Shannon Martin said she had water up to the top of her toilet bowl in her first floor. She and a friend waded through flooded streets to get inside and floated out some of her belongings in a cooler.

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