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Sally brings rain, wind, flooding to Coffee County

Sally brings rain, wind, flooding to Coffee County

Hurricane Sally took the slow route, dumping rain on Coffee County and knocking down trees and power lines on a washout Wednesday.

Coffee County Assistant EMA Director Grant Lyons said rain remains the greatest threat from Sally, which made landfall in Alabama around 4:45 a.m. as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds.

As of 2 p.m., parts of the county had received anywhere from 6.32 (Elba) to 8.76 (Enterprise) inches of rain, with another 5-7 inches projected for the area.

Lyons said a total of 565 customers were without power and that number – which includes Alabama Power, Covington Electric, South Alabama Electric and Wiregrass Electric customers – would almost certainly grow. The winds hadn’t reached their peak at that time on Wednesday.

“We haven’t really hit the eye yet,” he said of Sally. “The eye is moving toward us. We’ll get the sustained winds of 25-35 mph and gusts up to 50-65 mph.”

Those winds are expected to subside early Thursday hours after the eye of the storm has passed. However, a tornado watch has been extended through Wednesday night, part of several weather watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service.

“Rain is still the big thing and it will continue to be for the next 24 hours,” Lyons said Wednesday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be raining the whole time, but as the water starts to flow down from Pike and Barbour counties, that’s going to be a concern.”

Coffee County is currently under a tornado watch, a flash flood warning and a tropical storm warning.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Warning for the Pea River at Elba. At 10 p.m. Wednesday night, the river level there was 21.66 feet. The river at Elba is now projected to crest at 42 feet at approximately 1 a.m. early Friday morning.

“The flooding threat is what we’re most concerned about,” Lyons said.

Flash flooding is also a concern and a flash flood watch is in effect until Thursday morning. All of Coffee County is now in a “major” risk category for river flooding for those near the Pea River.

Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday morning as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds.

The county courthouses in Enterprise and Elba closed at noon Wednesday. The Elba courthouse is closed the rest of the week. The Enterprise courthouse is closed through Thursday. Enterprise City Hall is closed today and is scheduled to open at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Schools will remain closed Thursday.

Officials are urging citizens not to drive if you don’t have to.

Power company crews are working very hard to restore power. However, with tropical storms winds crews can’t safely work on lines. Patience will be required as companies continue to monitor the weather and will respond to emergency situations as they arise.

Lyons said the county had received multiple reports of downed trees and water on roads. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, county roads 712, 655, 663 and 682 were closed as impassable.

At 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night, these roads were closed due to washout or water:

-- County Road 326 was closed at the bridge over Bluff Creek approximately 1 mile west of County Road 305 due to water over roadway.

-- Coffee County Road 213 was closed at Shoal Creek approximately 3/4 miles east of Alabama Highway 87.

-- Coffee County Road 205 was closed approximately 1/2 mile east of Alabama Highway 87 due to drainage pipe failure.

-- Coffee County Road 479 at Flat Creek was impassable to through traffic due to water crossing the road at the bridge.

-- Coffee County Roads 712, 655, 663 and 682 remained impassable to through traffic due to water crossing the roads.

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Enterprise Municipal Airport Manager Staci Hayes has been voted onto the Board of Directors for the Aviation Council of Alabama, which represents international, air carrier and general aviation airports across the state.

“I’m very honored. I was shocked – pleasantly shocked,” said Hayes, who is also the Interim Director of Engineering Services for the city of Enterprise. “The Aviation Council is the voice for all the airports across Alabama.”

The council also represents aviation businesses, economic developers, pilots, aircraft owners and aviation associations. Its mission is continued improvement, development and advancement of airports and aviation throughout the state.

The Aviation Council puts on conferences and workshops, awards scholarships and provides resources and information for all of the state’s aviation interests. In addition, it is actively involved in legislative issues at both the state and national levels and serves as a resource to elected officials from local to national.

Hayes took over as Airport Manager and was elevated to Interim Director of Engineering in May of 2019. Even before taking over as manager, she had worked with the Aviation Council.

“I had attended a few of the workshops before I became the airport manager, but especially after that” she said. “This association, they’re the ones that people go to.

“Like down in Gulf Shores, they just had Hurricane Sally come through. They can come to the Aviation Council and we can help them.”

Hayes said she got a call in June from Art Morris, the former manager over Dothan Regional Airport, who still helps the Aviation Council in retirement.

“I’m not quite sure who nominated me, but he told me I had been nominated to fill an opening on their board,” she said. “They had one slot open because someone had resigned off the board. I’m going to take that spot and I have two years. Normally, it’s a three-year term. You can be reappointed to it.”

She found out Monday she had been added.

The council has five communities and Hayes said she would love to work on the Legislative Committee.

“That’s the committee that helps to go get grant money for all the airports,” she said.

She will likely get assigned a committee when the Aviation Council meets next month. It meets in Montgomery on the third Wednesday of every month.

Alabama’s Airport System is a major contributor to economic development, tourism and is a valuable transportation infrastructure resource for the state. Both commercial airline service and general aviation airports are major tools for local and statewide economic growth.

Adequate and safely maintained airports are an essential part of every community’s transportation infrastructure. The Aviation Council of Alabama is the state’s only Airport and Aviation Association that serves to protect the interest of airports, business and individuals that make up the “grassroots” of the aviation community.

“I’m completely honored and really, really excited, especially with the situation airports are in with COVID-19,” Hayes said. “I’m excited to represent our area and our airport.”

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