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Floods in Alabama

On this page you learn what types of flooding are typical in the Alabama and how do you protect yourself, your family and your home. You will also find out more about the significant Alabama floods. Finally, you'll find links to NWS offices that provide forecast and safety information for Alabama, as well as links to our partners who play a significant role in keeping you safe.

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Significant Alabama Floods
  • Flood of March 1929

    One of the greatest Alabama floods occurred in March of 1929. A period of heavy rain occurred on February 27-28, and another on March 4-5 of that year, but the worst was yet to come. From March 12-15, extreme rainfall occurred all across Alabama, with the most intense in southeast Alabama. During this period, almost 30 inches of rain fell in Elba, with 15 to 25 inches falling from near Brewton to Troy and Ozark. The average rainfall across the northern half of Alabama was estimated at around 12 inches, with about 17 inches in the southern sections.

    This rain produced one of the worst floods in the state's history in places such as Elba on the Pea River, Geneva on the Choctawhatchee River and River Falls, Brewton and Flomaton on the Conecuh River and its tributaries. Both Elba and Geneva were inundated, with water 10 feet or more deep in these towns. Literally thousands of people were stranded on rooftops in Elba for up to 3 days before rescuers were able to reach them. Damages were estimated at over $9 million. Significant, but less severe, flooding also occurred across portions of the Alabama and Tombigbee basins.

    Elba on the Pea River during March 1929 flood
    Elba on the Pea River during the March 1929 Flood

    Brewton on the Conecuh River during the March 1929 Flood
    Brewton on the Conecuh River during the March 1929 Flood

    Selma on the Alabama River during the March 1929 Flood
    Selma on the Alabama River during the March 1929 Flood

  • Flood of March 1990

    Heavy rainfall occurred from March 15-17, 1990, with totals of 8-16 inches producing record or near record flooding along several rivers in the southern two-thirds of Alabama. There were 13 deaths attributed to the flood event in Alabama. The flooding caused extensive damage occurred to streets, roads and bridges, and several major highways were closed. More than 6,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

    Some of the most severe flooding occurred on the Pea River at Elba where a crest of 43.28 feet was measured. A levee constructed around Elba was overtopped by a small stream the morning of the March 17, creating a 175 yard break in the levee that quickly flooded the town. More than 1,500 people were evacuated with no loss of life. Of the city's 140 businesses, 130 were either destroyed or severely damaged. Over 1,000 homes in the area were also flooded.

    On the Choctawhatchee River, a record crest of 40.32 feet occurred at Newton the morning of March 18, exceeding the crest of 39.4 feet that occurred in March 1929. Considerable residential and commercial flooding occurred in the vicinity of Newton and Daleville, with several evacuations necessary. Further downstream at Geneva, the river crested at 38.54 feet the afternoon of March 19 and flooded 450-500 homes outside of a levee built to protect the town. This crest was second only to the crest that occurred in the flood of March 1929.

    Murder Creek in Brewton crested some 10 feet above flood stage late on the March 17. This flooded a large portion of Brewton and East Brewton to depths of 4-6 feet.

    The Alabama River at Montgomery crested almost 20 feet above flood stage, causing widespread street, residential and commercial flooding in the area. Over 500 homes were evacuated in the Montgomery area, with 200-250 homes affected by flood waters on the Millbrook side of the river. Catoma Creek, which flows into the Alabama River near Montgomery, crested almost 10 feet above flood stage, causing widespread street, residential and commercial flooding in Montgomery's southern suburbs.

    At Selma, the Alabama crested at 54.75 feet on the 21st, about a foot below its flood of record. Over 1,700 homes were affected by flood waters in Dallas County.

    Severe flooding also occurred on portions of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, with residential flooding in the vicinities of Gadsden, Childersburg, Wetumpka and the Tallapoosa Water Plant.

    Total flood damage was estimated at $120 million in current U.S. dollars.

    Flooding in Elba during March 1990
    Flooding in Elba during March 1990

    Flooding in Elba during March 1990
    Flooding in Elba during March 1990

  • Flood of March, April 1979

    A wet winter and early spring season set the stage for major flooding in March-April of 1979. Heavy rains brought flooding to central and north Alabama during late March and early April, but this was only a prelude to the widespread and record or near record flooding that occurred later in the month.

    A storm system approaching Alabama on the April 11 brought extreme rainfall to the area during the next 2 days. By the morning of the 13th, four to eight inches of rain were common in north Alabama, with totals as high as 10-15 inches in the western counties. Heavy rain continued through the morning of the 13th, shifting south and east, with 4 to 5 inches falling over Lake Martin in approximately two hours before noon. By mid-afternoon, most of the rain had moved east of the area.

    Record or near record crests occurred along much of the Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Sucarnoochee Rivers with severe residential and commercial flooding in areas such as Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, Gainesville and Livingston. Thousands of acres of farm lands, woodlands, and pasture lands were flooded, as well as numerous camps and cabins along these rivers.

    Widespread signficiant, but less severe, flooding occurred on many area rivers, including the Alabama, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Cahaba Rivers, with some residential flooding occurring in the vicinities of Montgomery, Gadsden and the Tallapoosa Water Plant.

    When all the floodwaters had receded, damage was estimated at $75 million with at least 15 deaths in the state.

    Flooding on the Tombigbee River at the Highway 80 Bridge west of Demopolis April 19, 1979
    Flooding on the Tombigbee River at the Highway 80 Bridge west of Demopolis April 19, 1979

    Flooding on the Tombigbee River at the Highway 80 Bridge west of Demopolis April 19, 1979
    Flooding on the Tombigbee River at the Highway 80 Bridge west of Demopolis April 19, 1979


  • Tropical Storm Alberto–July 1994

    Major flooding occurred along rivers in southeast Alabama following very heavy rainfall spawned by the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto during the first week of July 1994. The most serious and devastating flooding occurred along the Choctawhatchee and Pea Rivers. Only the Great Flood of March 1929 and the flood of March 1990 exceeded this event in the record along these rivers.

    Tropical Storm Alberto moved ashore in the Florida Panhandle on July 3 then moved slowly north-northeast to near Atlanta during the next few days before meandering back south and west into Alabama. During this time, the storm produced rainfall of 15-20 inches over portions of extreme Southeast Alabama, and 5-10 inches over portions of the Tallapoosa and Conecuh River basins. This rainfall resulted in major flooding along the Choctawhatchee and Pea River, with less severe flooding along the lower portion of the Tallapoosa River, the lower Conecuh River and Catoma Creek near Montgomery. Over 1,000 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed in Coffee, Dale, Henry, Geneva and Houston counties as the Choctawhatchee and Pea Rivers overflowed their banks.

    Many points along the Choctawhatchee River measured near record crests. At Newton, the river crested at 37.95 feet, making it the third highest crest recorded there. At Geneva, the river crested at 42.42 feet, making it the second highest crest. The Pea River at Elba crested at 38.33 feet, making this the third highest crest recorded there.

    When the high waters had receded, 10 Alabama counties had been declared disaster areas. Two deaths and over $112 million in damages were attributed to the flooding in Alabama.

    Storm Total Rainfall for Tropical Storm Alberto
    Storm Total Rainfall for Tropical Storm Alberto

  • North Alabama Flood of March 1973

    In the middle of March 1973, the Tennessee Valley region experienced one of its costliest floods in modern history. Heavy rainfall caused flash flooding beginning in the evening hours of Thursday, March 15 in northwest Alabama lasting through the early morning hours of Friday, March 16 across the remainder of north Alabama and in southern part of middle Tennessee. Flash flooding problems then translated into flooding along area rivers as the rainwater filtered through smaller creeks and streams into larger waterways. This event still stands as the record flood along many area rivers including the Paint Rock River at Woodville, Limestone Creek at Capshaw, Indian Creek at Madison, Big Nance Creek at Courtland. This flood also set the record for the maximum streamflow on the Tennessee River at Florence. Several roads and bridges were washed out across the area. There was one death in Lawrence County, when a man drove into the flooding Big Nance Creek near Moulton. Another man who was in the car with him was able to escape the rushing waters with his life.

    In Madison County, considerable flooding occurred along Huntsville Spring Branch and its tributaries, Pinhook Creek and Broglan Branch. This flooding destroyed the central area of the city, most of which was either inundated by water or inaccessible due to water in surrounding areas. Water slowly rose along the Tennessee River to historic levels. The river reached its highest stage in history at Florence, topping a record set in 1897, before flood control operations began along the river. Along the river, McFarland Bottom Park and the old State Docks were under water. The Pro Shop at McFarland Park was flooded and fences around it floated away. Water flooded the railroad bridges and was up the metal truss under the O'Neal Bridge. Highway 20 was flooded, forcing it's closure.

    Significant flooding occurred along the Flint River. The river gauge on Winchester Road recorded its second highest crest (the crest was later surpassed by the floods of December 1990), and peak discharge there was greater than twice the 100 year flood level. Water came up to the top of that bridge and may have briefly gone over it. In the area near the river gauge, several buildings such as the Flint River Trading Post, were under water. Of course, high water upstream meant big problems downstream as well. Hardest hit was the Owens Crossroads area. Madison County Rescue Squad workers worked long hours evacuating residents by boat.

    Rainfall Totals from March 14-16, 1973
    Rainfall Totals from March 14-16, 1973

    Flooding along Huntsville Spring Branch and Memorial Parkway on March 16, 1973
    Flooding along Huntsville Spring Branch and
    Memorial Parkway on March 16, 1973

    For more on this flood, visit A Look Back at the Floods of March 1973



Flood Hazard Information
  • Flash Flooding

    Flash flooding is a rapid and extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level, beginning within six hours of the causative event (i.e., intense rainfall, dam failure, ice jam). More information...

  • River Flooding

    River flooding occurs when river levels rise and overflow their banks or the edges of their main channel and inundate areas that are normally dry. More information...
  • Tropical Systems and Coastal Flooding

    At any time of year, a storm from over the ocean can bring heavy precipitation to the U.S. coasts. Whether such a storm is tropical or not, prolonged periods of heavy precipitation can cause flooding in coastal areas, as well as further inland as the storm moves on shore. More information...

  • Dam Breaks/Levee Failure

    A break or failure can occur with little to no warning. Most often they are caused by water overtopping the structure, excessive seepage through the surrounding ground, or a structural failure. More information...
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