On this date in 1998, three days of heavy rain sent floodwaters from Beaver Dam Creek churning through the small South Alabama town of Elba as a levee gave way.
2,000 of the town’s 4,000 residents had to evacuate as the downtown area was under 6 feet of water.
Very cold weather would follow the flooding just three days later with temperatures in the area dropping into the middle 20s.
Five people died across South Alabama from the flooding.
It was the third flood in the small town in 8 years. In 1990, the town was inundated when a levee on the Pea River broke, with only rooftops poking through a sea of floodwaters. The Corps of Engineers reinforced that levee after the 1990 flood.
The 1998 flood happened suddenly with little warning, so even though the flood crest was less than during the 1990 flood, the 1998 flood caused more damage. With more warning in the 1990 flood, people had time to move their belongings to higher ground.
Of course, Elba was certainly no stranger to floods. In 1865, a flood shortly after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln destroyed the town. On March 15, 1929, the Pea River crested at 43.5 feet. Airplanes had to be employed to drop supplies to the marooned town. Other floods occurred in 1938, 1959 and 1975.
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