February's nearly continuous rain has damaged roads across Jackson County, Alabama, and officials say repair work will be costly and widespread.
National Weather Service officials said last week that North Alabama got more than 13 inches of rain in 10 days' time.
Jackson County Emergency Management Agency Director Felix Jackson said four roads — County Road 93, County Road 178, County Road 38 and County Road 189 — were damaged to the point they were closed but that there no homes inside the closed areas.
The worst damage is where roads cross gaps in area mountains at the point the heaviest runoff occurs, he said. The damage on County Road 38 "is more of a slide," he said.
The water's still high in places.
Guntersville Dam has been spilling lots of water to keep up with the torrent coming down from Tennessee, and "that gives us a backup on Paint Rock River down on the other end of the county," Jackson said. "We're catching it from both ends. Literally."
But this week, floodwaters have begun to recede in most areas, he said, noting more rain is in the forecast and that means more damage is possible.
Jackson County Sheriff's Office deputies have been experiencing the damaged pavement firsthand.
"We've got a lot of road issues," Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said during a phone interview as he rode from Scottsboro to the south end of the county on one of the past week's rare sunny days.
"We've got some roads that are totally destroyed," Harnen said. "We're talking about 12- or 15-inch pieces sticking up out of the ground."
Harnen said no bridges had washed out but he couldn't say whether any were damaged.
"County Road 93 in the Hogjaw Valley is one that's really bad," Harnen said, naming roads on Jackson's list. "And County Road 17 going up to Skyline is bad. County Road 138 going up to Summerhouse Mountain on the north side of [U.S. Highway] 72 near Bridgeport is bad."
There's also plenty of minor damage everywhere, he said.
"Even [Alabama Highway] 35 has several areas that need to be repaired," the jostled chief deputy said as he and Sheriff Chuck Phillips rattled up Sand Mountain from Scottsboro in a patrol vehicle on Tuesday.
Jackson said county engineer Jonathan Campbell put together some two-man teams to assess road damage across the county so officials can prioritize the work.
Jackson County officials hope Gov. Kay Ivey declares a state of emergency for Jackson and other hard-hit counties to free up money for damage repair.
"I think the governor's going to declare a disaster so there'll be state help and possibly federal help as well," Jackson said. "They're wanting our damage assessments and our state EMA director is coming up [Thursday] to meet with us and all the other affected counties."
The county will initially foot the bill.
"We'll start the work with the materials we've got. The county will buy what we need. Then they'll submit [expenses] to the state EMA and from there they'll submit it to FEMA," he said, adding that a state relief fund could be activated to help out, too.
Repairs will begin "when we're able to start," he said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.
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