COVINGTON - Flood waters from the Yellow River are slowly subsiding but are still making their presence felt in Newton County.
Water levels did not reach high enough to close the Porterdale bridge over the Yellow River, and sightseers were still gathering by the score on Wednesday to watch the spectacular show as the water rushed over the dam with such force that a mist rose from it. Others were not so enthused as they found their familiar paths closed to traffic, resulting in gridlock in many areas.
A long list of road closures was released Wednesday and according to Deputy Director Jody Nolan of Newton County Emergency/Risk Management residents will need patience as they wait for the roads to reopen, especially the roads where the Yellow River passes by and under.
"It's very likely some roads will be closed through next Wednesday," Nolan said, adding that affected roadways and bridges will have to be inspected before they can reopen.
Nolan again reminded citizens that the water is not going to immediately disappear.
"We've seen this type of flooding in Porterdale, but everything is backed up behind it," Nolan said. "The counties above us that have pooling areas of water ... all that water will have to channel down to us. All the water that is north of Porterdale is going to have to go through a very small channel and it's going to take a long time for it to channel out. It's going to be a very slow and tedious process to make sure these roads are safe."
And, of course, all bets are off should heavy rains return to the area.
"If we do get significant rainfall this weekend, it could push it (roads reopening) even further," he said. "People should try to get used to the detours and try to take that into considerations if they're making a trip across town."
Nolan warned, too, that the water that is standing all around is unclean.
"I would recommend people not venture into the water because there is a lot of raw sewage and animal sewage above us," he said. "The bacteria levels are definitely increased because of the runoff."
And on no account should anyone attempt recreation on the standing water.
"Although it's very tempting to put in a boat or a raft or a Jet Ski, it would be foolhardy, and we would very much discourage it," Nolan said, adding that he would even extend the warning to include clean waters that don't necessarily have runoff.
"Even though we don't have significant flooding problems with the Alcovy River, there is still a lot of water moving through the channel. I would like to discourage people from taking part in activities that would involve entering the water at Newton Factory Shoals."
Two people drowned at that site earlier this year when waters were calmer than they are now.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org