Storms bring double-digit rain totals to Alabama, Mississippi

Story highlights

  • Birmingham officials say three homes destroyed in southwest section of the city, just one injury
  • Rainfall totals have exceed 10 inches in one Mississippi county and 20 at an Alabama airport
  • One Alabama town is worried about water overtopping or breaking through a levee

(CNN)A county in northeast Mississippi was getting hammered by thunderstorms on Christmas, with some areas receiving 10 inches of rain with more on the way, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Friday.

Monroe County residents can expect 2 to 3 more inches of rain after some people in the northern part of the county saw 10 inches since 6 a.m., meteorologist Jim Branda said.
Many roads are flooded and some people are dealing with rising water in their homes, Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said.
    "We're just a mess here. It's a really serious situation. We've got all our deputies out. We've got all the fire departments out. I wasn't expecting this." Cantrell said. "It's raining so hard now you can't see. It's a terrible situation. I hope the good Lord lets it stop raining for a while."
    Other towns in the South were dealing with similar pain.
    At least 20 inches of rain fell at the airport in Gadsden, Alabama, between 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and 3 p.m. on Christmas.
    Etowah County Emergency Management Director Deborah Gaither told CNN there are several impassable roads in the county.
    "Right now we are asking citizens to stay in place and try not to travel, especially if it becomes really dark," she said.
    Officials in Elba, Alabama, on the Pea River, are worried about the river reaching it's highest mark ever. As of 9 p.m., the river was at 39.3 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Officials said it could rise to 43.5 feet on Saturday morning.
    City leaders met with Coffee County officials Friday morning, getting a report on the city's levee and residential flooding.
    At least 117 homes have been substantially flooded, said Coffee County Emergency Management Director Larry Walker.
    He said the authorities will later be forced to shut the floodgate on the levee if the water tops the protective barrier.
    Walker is guardedly optimistic the levee will hold. In 1990, Elba was nearly destroyed when the old levee around the town broke.
    CNN affiliate WFSA reported two dozen roads in the county have been closed and the Red Cross has opened a shelter at an elementary school.
    Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday declared a state of emergency for select counties to help authorities handle the damage. Friday's storms also brought several tornado warnings to Alabama and Mississippi.
    A possible tornado hit near Birmingham, Alabama, where two people were hospitalized with storm-related injuries.
    There were reports of homes being damaged and trees down in southwest Birmingham, said Horace Walker of Jefferson County Emergency Management.
    Birmingham Fire Chief Charles Gordon said one person was injured and three homes collapsed in a 1 square mile area.
    Two other people were pulled from the debris but didn't need to go to a hospital.
    Mayor William Bell said: "Right now the biggest issue is to make sure that we have gotten to any potential victims and make sure they are taken care of."
    As of Friday night, 15 deaths in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas had been linked to the severe weather of the past few days, in addition to scores of injuries.