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Alabama Power ready for flood predictions

ohatchee flooding

The floodgates at H. Neely Henry Dam in Ohatchee were opened slightly to help reduce flooding upstream during the aftermath of heavy rains that passed through the area on Monday and Tuesday. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Alabama Power officials say they prepared ahead of time this week when forecasters predicted another rainstorm for Wednesday night over an already-drenched northeast Alabama.

Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman said around 4 p.m. today the water levels at Neely-Henry Dam in Ohatchee were at 502 feet and 6 inches, whereas the average water levels there during the winter were 507 feet.

“The situation is actually better than we anticipated in the forecasts,” Sznajderman said.

That’s mainly because the company turned on the dam’s turbines, sucking water out of the lake, Sznajderman explained. He said the dam’s spillway gates are also open to maintain the flow of the water.

“We’re following our normal flood procedures,” Snajderman said.

The rainstorm should pass northeast Alabama by 6 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service’s forecast today.

Forecasters this morning issued a flash flood watch from 4 p.m. this afternoon through 6 a.m. Thursday, citing the possibility of up to 1.5 inches of rain in the area. Most local schools announced two-hour delays for Thursday due to the threat of inclement weather.

Tonight's weather comes after rain soaked the region Monday, closing roads due to flooding and causing schools to delay two hours Tuesday.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service’s office in Calera said Wednesday morning the additional rainfall could cause flooding because the ground is so saturated.

Forecasters said the storms could also cause damaging winds and pose the slight possibility of a brief tornado.

Because the ground was so wet from storms earlier this week, forecasters said, heavy winds could have also uprooted trees.

At around 4:30 p.m. today, meteorologist Chris Darden said, the forecast had remained the same since that morning.

Forecasters urged locals to have at least two ways to receive weather updates and a way for those updates to wake them up in case of an emergency.

Sznajderman urged anyone living on Neely Henry Lake to make sure none of their belongings are on shorelines or docks.

Contact Staff Writer Mia Kortright at 256-235-3563.