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SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2007
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Decatur Public Works employee Wayne Wascavage uses a pitchfork to clear a drain on Eighth Avenue Southwest in Decatur on Saturday. Wascavage said the city may need to replace the bar-covered drains with an open-mouth version, which doesn’t clog as easily.
Daily photos by Chris Paschenko
Decatur Public Works employee Wayne Wascavage uses a pitchfork to clear a drain on Eighth Avenue Southwest in Decatur on Saturday. Wascavage said the city may need to replace the bar-covered drains with an open-mouth version, which doesn’t clog as easily.

Under water in the River City
Residents call for better drainage on often-flooded Southwest street

By Chris Paschenko
and Holly Hollman

chris@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Decatur’s drenching Saturday turned one low-lying road into a swimming hole, but it did not terminate drought conditions.

Meteorologist Dave Nadler with the National Weather Service in Huntsville reported that Decatur had the most rain in the local area with 11/2 to 2 inches, but that wasn’t enough to end Decatur’s drought.

Decatur, Athens and Moulton are in the extreme drought category because the Tennessee Valley is 10 inches below normal this year.

The rain contributed to debris-clogged storm drains on Eighth Avenue Southwest in Decatur and created a pool more than 2 feet deep that enticed children to slosh about when the rain subsided.

Thomas Davis has lived on Eighth Avenue for 13 years. He’s complained about poor drainage on two city blocks between Moulton and Second streets but said the city hasn’t found a solution to the flooding.

“It backs up into my yard,” Davis said. “It’s been like that ever since I’ve lived here whenever there’s a lot of rain. It doesn’t flood nowhere else like this in Decatur.”

A river runs through it: Sequoia Orr, 13, Makayla Orr, 7, and Kenny Elliott, 10, slosh around on a flooded Eighth Avenue Southwest during a lull in Saturday’s storm.
A river runs through it: Sequoia Orr, 13, Makayla Orr, 7, and Kenny Elliott, 10, slosh around on a flooded Eighth Avenue Southwest during a lull in Saturday’s storm.
Davis’ neighbor Larry Blackwood said he’s put up with the flooding for 20 years.

“I can’t back out of my driveway,” Blackwood said. “We need more than one drain. It’s come up to the top steps of my sidewalk before.”

Rainwater pools deepest in front of Christy Orr’s house in the 400 block of Eighth Avenue, where debris frequently clogs two openings of one drainpipe. Orr said Public Works Department employees used shovels to clear the curbs last week.

“They were moving leaves to the side,” Orr said — “just dumped them on the sidewalk. But as soon as it rains again, it clogs right back up.”

Between 12:30 and 2 p.m., many drivers chose routes around the high water. But others churned straight through, sending water above headlights and wakes into yards.

Decatur police blocked Eighth Avenue and called Public Works employee Wayne Wascavage, who set up blockades to redirect traffic.

From inside his truck, Wascavage sank a pitchfork into one of the clogged drains, momentarily dislodging leaves, limbs and litter. He said it would take about two hours for the water to subside.

Wascavage said the city might need to replace the bar-covered drains with an open-mouth version, which doesn’t clog as easily.

Lightning strike

While Decatur had some flooding, Lawrence County experienced thunderstorms that resulted in lightning striking and splitting a tree on Old Moulton Road. Lawrence EMA reported that thunderstorms blew through the county between 6 a.m. and noon.

Although the rain and storms left the Tennessee Valley, a cool, blustery day with low clouds was to remain Sunday, Nadler said.

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