Major thunderstorms accompanied by tornadoes that battered portions of Mississippi and Alabama on December 24, 2015, claimed at least 15 lives and devastated homes across the area, making this Christmas a sad event for numerous people.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), parts of northeast Mississippi received 254 mm (10 inches) of rainfall on December 25. More rainfall has been forecast for the area. Monroe County is expected to get between 50.8 and 76.2 mm (2 to 3 inches) of additional precipitation, meteorologist Jim Branda said.
Numerous roads and homes have been flooded since the severe weather began: "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. 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," Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said.
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The airport in Gadsden, Alabama measured at least 508 mm (20 inches) of rainfall between 7 p.m on December 24 and 3 p.m on December 25 (local time). Heavy rainfalls caused flooding and traffic disruptions across the area and citizens have been warned to avoid traveling especially during the night.
The Pea River in Elba, Alabama reached 11.97 m (39.3 feet) on 9 p.m. on December 25, according to the US Geological Survey and the officials are worried the river might reach 13.2 m (43.5 feet) on the morning of December 26. The local authorities might be forced to shut the floodgate on the city's levee if the water floods the protective barrier.
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Larry Walker, the Coffee County Emergency Management Director, said at least 117 homes in the area have been flooded. A local shelter at an elementary school for displaced residents has been opened by the Red Cross.
Robert Bentley, the local Governor, declared a state of emergency on December 24 to aid the affected counties in handling the damage caused by severe storms and numerous deadly tornadoes.
"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," Mayor William Bell said.
In total 15 people died in storm-related incidents across Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas, as of December 25.
Featured image: Severe damage from the storm and tornado, December 24, 2015. Image credit: FOX 10 Phoenix