The fury from the remnants of Hurricane Ida was expected to diminish in the Decatur area this morning, but several local school systems altered plans because of the storm and a flash flood watch was issued.
If the flash flood watch is upgraded to a warning, "be prepared to stay off the roads,” said Andrew Pritchett of the National Weather Service's Huntsville office.
Today will be "a really wet day with some potential thunderstorms as well.” He said the rain could be heavy in the morning, but will taper off during the day.
Lawrence County Schools will be closed today because of the severe weather threat. Athens City Schools and Morgan County Schools announced they'll hold remote learning classes today. Limestone County Schools will be on a two-hour delay this morning.
Decatur City Schools planned to operate in-person classes on their regular schedule today.
“From what the weather service has told me, we are going to have rain in the morning, but they feel like any threat for severe weather will be east of the interstate by sunrise or as late as 7 a.m.,” Deputy Superintendent Dwight Satterfield said.
Hartselle City Schools posted on its Facebook page that it also planned to have normal operations today but would continue to monitor the weather.
Ida struck Louisiana on Sunday as a hurricane, knocking out power to all of New Orleans, blowing roofs off buildings and reversing the flow of the Mississippi River. It was downgraded to a tropical depression Monday as it curved to the northeast over land. The storm system was expected to bring heavy rain and the possibility of tornadoes as it passed over north Alabama. The weather service said the tornado threat locally would end near daybreak.
James Everett, manager of the Tennessee Valley Authority's River Forecast Center, said the agency has been preparing for Ida by creating extra capacity in its reservoir system.
“What we’ve been doing, for many days now, is sort of accelerating the release from the dams,” said Everett. He said they have lowered the levels in Wheeler Lake, among others.
“We take into account how much rainfall might move into the Valley, and we go ahead and try to move a lot of water through the system, so we can absorb all that rainfall and runoff,” said Everett.
Morgan County District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie said his shop is prepared if water levels rise to threatening levels.
“We have low areas in our district; a lot of it depends on the river. We try to keep everything covered. We’ve got signs ready to go out, we’ve got a crew ready to go out,” he said.
Decatur Fire & Rescue filed paperwork with the state Emergency Management Agency so that if all of its resources weren't needed here it could dispatch one firetruck with four personnel if asked to assist another community, according to Emily Long, city spokesperson.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said he planned for the courthouse in Decatur to be open today and operate normally.
“I don’t anticipate anything but a lot of rain," Long said.
Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler EMC were preparing Monday for any potential power outages created by the storm.
“When we do expect storms like this to come in, we send trucks home with our guys who live across both (Morgan and Lawrence) counties. They are better placed to answer calls faster,” said Mike Cornelison, spokesperson for Joe Wheeler.
“We also have some contract crews that are working with us that are kind of on hold until we see if we’re going to need them or not. We are as ready as we can be without knowing where, or if, we’ll have any outages.”
Decatur Utilities spokesperson Joe Holmes said, “We’re going to keep a close eye on everything, make sure all the trucks are outfitted with all the materials, gassed up, and ready to go at a moment’s notice."
The American Red Cross provided these tips for preparing for a flooding threat.
• Have an emergency preparedness kit.
• Create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets.
• Ensure each family member knows how to get back in touch if you are separated during an emergency.
• Talk with your family about what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued. The Red Cross said discussing floods ahead of time helps reduce fear, especially for younger children.
The Red Cross advised monitoring the weather for threats. Finally, be prepared to evacuate quickly and know your routes and destinations and find a local emergency shelter.