NASHVILLE – Rain bands spinning off of Tropical Depression Cindy spread drenching rains across the Southeast and into the Midwest on Friday, triggering scattered flash flood warnings in several states including West Virginia, whose residents are still recovering from deadly floods one year ago.
The storms stretching for hundreds of miles (kilometers) are expected to push river and lake levels higher in coming days as what remains of an earlier tropical storm crosses Tennessee and Kentucky and enters West Virginia. The severe weather, which was blamed for recent coastal flooding in the Deep South, tornadoes and one death, is rumbling closer to the densely populated East Coast.
National Weather Service forecasters said rainfall totals of 2-4 inches (50-100 millimeters) were possible in several states, with up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) in isolated spots. Flash flood watches were issued for much of Kentucky and West Virginia. Last June, torrential rains in West Virginia claimed 23 lives and memories of that disaster are still vivid.
— NWS (@NWS) 23 de junio de 2017
Forecasters hoped for the best. “We should have a comfortable weekend coming up if we can just get through tonight and tomorrow,” said Greg Meffert, lead forecaster in the Paducah, Kentucky, weather service office.
With last year’s flood disaster in West Virginia still in mind, the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management held briefings for emergency managers ahead of the rains, spokesman Lawrence Messina said. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice also signed a new law this week to coordinate the state’s flood mitigation and response efforts through a new state office.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) 23 de junio de 2017
The U.S. Storm Prediction Center said severe weather remains a lingering threat from the Southeast to western Pennsylvania. But even parts of the Midwest felt the impact of Cindy’s passage.
Heavy rainfall associated with remnants of the tropical storm caused scattered street flooding across central and southern Indiana on Friday. Weather service flood warnings covered most of the southern two-thirds of the state, with more than 3 inches (75 millimeters) of rainfall having accumulated in some places by midday — and minor flooding expected along some Indiana rivers.
Emergency crews helped some people from stranded vehicles in Muncie, Indiana, including a nearly submerged SUV at a railroad underpass. Low-lying roads in many areas were covered with water. Early Friday, high winds also peeled off part of the roof from a high school near South Bend. The school district’s superintendent said about 10 classrooms had been damaged. No injuries were reported.
As a slow-moving tropical storm that formed Tuesday in the Gulf, Cindy was blamed for one death. Nolan McCabe, 10, of St. Louis, Missouri, was vacationing with his family on the Alabama coast when he was hit by a log carried in on a large wave. Cindy also caused widespread coastal highway and street flooding and several short-lived tornadoes, but no other deaths.
A suspected tornado near Birmingham, Alabama, flattened businesses and injured one person Thursday, while the mayor of the coastal Louisiana town of Lafitte urged residents to evacuate ahead of a rising tide — two lingering effects of the weakening system that fueled harsh weather across the Southeast.
On Friday, forecasters were trying to verify exactly how many tornadoes touched down in Alabama during Cindy’s passage. The National Weather Service said an EF-2 twister with winds up to 120 mph (190 kph) struck just outside Birmingham on Thursday. Several businesses were damaged and at least four people were hurt. Forecasters also are checking damage elsewhere in central and southern Alabama to determine whether tornadoes struck there.
Crews in Memphis cleared storm drains to help prevent street flooding before the storm arrived. Memphis Light Gas and Water reported that as many as 10,000 customers were without power Friday morning, amid local reports of blustery winds, heavy rain and some traffic snarls.
Still, the storm barely registered a blip for some in Memphis. Danielle Clewley, a 25-year-old student, was in a supermarket parking lot putting away groceries in her car Friday. She said she didn’t even hear the rain overnight though she acknowledged “my air conditioning is very loud.”
“I had heard Tropical Storm Cindy mentioned,” Clewley said. But she added she saw no damage in her neighborhood and thought there was much hype in advance because officials feel it’s better that people be overprepared than underprepared.
“And ratings are good,” Clewley added of the news broadcast outlets. “If people are watching, that’s good.”