Pelham still reeling from floods

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain … but it was little consolation for more than 80 Pelham residents whose homes or businesses were flooded last week.

Water rising as high as three and a half feet drenched houses and cars in some areas, according to environmental supervisor Chad Scroggins of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency.

Even two or three inches, minor flooding by Tuesday’s standards, was enough to ruin carpet and damage furniture in many homes, Scroggins said.

The weekend sunshine came just days after thunderstorms dumped heavy rainfall on Pelham, a city seemingly plagued with flood problems, in a month when staying dry was a task as tough as the city’s mayor, former SWAT cop Bobby Hayes.

Hayes expressed sympathy for the flood victims but noted that the city bares no responsibility for damage caused by the flash floods.

He said, however, the city is working diligently to help residents get state and federal assistance.

The National Weather Service in Calera called a flash flood warning for parts of Shelby County just before an estimated three to four inches of rain fell on a confined area along the corridor of U.S. Highway 31 and U.S. 119, said meteorologist Ken Lorek.

&uot;It was a significant amount of rainfall in a localized area,&uot; Lorek said. &uot;And we already had ground saturation from all the rain in the last 30 to 60 days.&uot;

The Shelby County EMA spent the majority of this week surveying damages to about 75 homes, mostly in the Cedar Coves, Saddle Run and Stratford subdivisions.

At least six businesses were also damaged along Yeager Parkway, Scroggins said.

The city-approved stormwater drains were unable to keep up with the large amounts of rainfall in such a relatively short time span, officials said.

Hayes maintains the city is not responsible for the floods, diverting the blame to mother nature.

Still, some Pelham residents claim a more accountable source must be at fault and many have directed their gripes toward city hall.

&uot;It was the amount of rain in a short amount of time,&uot; Hayes said. &uot;You can’t build a drainage system that can handle that.&uot;

Hayes points out that a judge dismissed a previous lawsuit that attempted to hold the city responsible for flood damages.

So even with water damage up to their knees, some Pelham residents may be left high and dry.

Scroggins said less than a quarter of the home-owners in the flooded areas had flood insurance, and local officials are skeptical about any returns on an application to FEMA for federal aid prepared by the Shelby County EMA.

Environmental manager Robert Kelley said the damages are probably &uot;not extensive enough&uot; to warrant a disaster declaration.

&uot;I think if they get anything out of it, it would be maybe low-interest loans from the Small Business Association,&uot; Kelley said.

Pelham does participate in the Flood Plain Management Program, Kelley said. The program was developed by FEMA to prevent development in areas considered to be flood plains.

None of the houses or businesses damaged in Tuesday’s floods were located in the flood plain, Kelley said.

The &uot;flood plain&uot; designation is primarily used for insurance purposes and is determined by elevation and topographical maps