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Flooding Routs Campers on Tennessee River

April 19, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Campers at McFarland Park in Florence, Ala., began packing up and heading to higher ground Monday (April 18) after city officials issued an evacuation order as the Tennessee River is expected to spill over its banks for the second time within the past six weeks.

Flooding was expected to begin at McFarland Park overnight, according to Florence Parks and Recreation Department officials, the Florence Times Daily reported.

Florence residents Donna and Larry Woody arrived at the park Sunday and planned to spend the week relaxing in their travel trailer. Instead, they rushed to make it out of the park before it began flooding.

“I had put my truck in the shop to have it worked on, and I was gone to work when Donna called and said we had to leave,” Larry Woody said as he packed a pair of bicycles. “I had to leave work and go pick up my truck so I would have something to pull the trailer.”

The flooding was spawned by heavy rain Friday throughout the Tennessee Valley. More than 3 inches of rain fell in parts of the Shoals, with some Tennessee Valley communities receiving up to 6 inches of rainfall.

Florence spokesman Phil Stevenson said Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials alerted the Parks and Recreation Department on Monday morning the river is about to overflow its banks at McFarland Park. Floodwater is expected to cover the main road leading in and out of the park.

Roy and Patricia Strobe, also of Florence, said park officials knocked on the door of their motorhome early Monday and told them two evacuate.

“We wanted to go ahead and get everybody out while we still could and not take any chances,” Stevenson said.

Kurt Weber, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Huntsville, said the Tennessee River is expected to remain above flood stage at the park through at least Wednesday afternoon. Additional rain, which is possible today through Friday, could prolong the flooding.

Stevenson said closing the campground is costly to the city. He said the 60 recreational vehicle spots at McFarland Park rent for $18 per night.

“When flooding is possible, we had rather be safe and send everyone home than take their money,” Stevenson said.

The campground also was closed by flooding in March.

Stevenson said he is unsure when the campground will reopen.

As campers were evacuating, park employees were busy Monday placing trash cans on picnic tables to prevent them from being washed away by the flood as well as making other preparations for the expected high water.

While the rising water caused campers problems, some anglers headed into the park hoping to catch big catfish and bass.

Dale Kelley, of Florence, and Gary Stonelake, of Savannah, Ga., fished from the park’s pier on Cypress Creek as water lapped at its deck, which is normally about 5 feet above the waterline.

“It’s usually pretty good fishing here when the water is coming up like this,” Kelley said.

Another angler, Muscle Shoals resident Doug Stout, said catfish normally bite rapidly at McFarland Park when Pickwick Lake begins spilling over its banks.

Other anglers had to change their fishing plans because of the flooding. Gary Nelson, of Huntsville, and his brother, Dan Nelson, of Flint, Mich., were planning to spend the week fishing at McFarland Park. Instead, they now will spend the week camping at Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville and fishing on Wheeler Lake.

“We were getting ready to put the boat in the water and go fishing when they stopped and told us we had to leave,” Gary Nelson said.

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