Severe flooding trapped cars along Alabama 21 and U.S. 78, and Oxford fire Chief Gary Sparks said at least two people had to be rescued from their vehicles after driving into water.
Rain started pouring heavily around 2:30 p.m., when water started creeping into the stores along Main Street. Nearly half an inch of rainfall was recorded at the Anniston Regional Airport between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“All of a sudden, I just opened the back door and it came pouring in,” said Patty Massey, owner of Bright Ideas candle store, while trying to sweep water out the front door just after the sun broke around 4 p.m. “It just happened out of nowhere.”
Sparks said several buildings downtown suffered severe water damage. Firefighters worked to shut off electric power in the area, and emergency vehicles and road blocks kept travelers off the roads with the most water.
“Water and electricity don’t mix,” Sparks said.
Jewell Craben, the owner of the Tackle Box on Main Street, said this is the third time her store has been flooded. When water started creeping in, two customers had been in the store, but didn’t stick around.
“They came in to get out of the rain, I think,” Craben said. “But I guess they saw it wasn’t stopping anytime soon and left.”
Along Quintard Avenue and Hamric Drive, in parking lots at Quintard Mall, outlet stores and Oxford High School, cars were trapped in the deep water and several tow trucks had been called to the area. The intersection of Snow Street and Alabama 21 was mostly flooded out as cars packed into one lane to avoid the deepest parts of the water.
Flood waters covered sections of Hale Street and residents' front yards along with a section of the road across from Oxford High. A small, white van was trapped in the water there for several minutes before someone with a large truck towed it out. Behind the Oxford High football stadium was a several-inches deep hole, apparently melted into the asphalt of a parking lot. Oxford High junior Aaron Vaughn, 17, said he and several others heard what sounded like a shotgun while they were in the school, and speculated that the hole was caused by a lightning strike.
Nearby on Hamric Drive across from the high school, Oxford had gained a new but temporary lake from the flooding of the small park there. Water had almost completely submerged the picnic tables, with only the tops visible from the street.
Jonathan Gaddy, director of the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency, said no injuries had been reported relating to the flooding.
“No one has requested any assistance from the EMA,” Gaddy said.
Sparks said the rain appeared to be over by 4 p.m. and already some of the water had started retreating. He cautioned people in vehicles still needed to drive with care in certain areas.
“Don’t drive into the water,” he said. “You can’t tell how deep it’s going to be.”
Matt Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Calera, said Calhoun County was under a hazardous weather warning until 8 p.m., but that the area had likely seen the worst of the storms.
“The chances of another storm are very unlikely,” Anderson said. “Because the area has already seen so much rain, I don’t think it’ll be seeing too much more.”