High Water Mark Sign Unveiled in Wetumpka, Alabama


Flood Safety Awareness Week kicked off in Wetumpka, Alabama on Monday, March 18th, when the National Weather Service (NWS) presented the city with a High Water Mark Sign at “The Old Calaboose”, the city’s first jail built in the early 1800s. The High Water Mark Sign shows the highest flood level reached on the Coosa River at Wetumpka during the official NWS period of record which dates back to 1890. The highest flood level recorded at Wetumpka during this period occurred on April 8, 1938, when the river crested almost 13 feet above flood stage at 57.90 feet. A line on the High Water Mark Sign indicates the depth of the water at “The Old Calaboose” during this flood.

To help raise awareness of flood risk, the NWS began a project in 2006 to install High Water Mark signs in prominent locations within communities that have experienced severe flooding. Local NWS offices coordinate with emergency management and other local officials to select the best locations for the signs. The U.S. Geological Survey is involved as well, providing historical data and aiding with the surveying of high water mark signs in their districts.

High Water Mark Sign in Wetumpka 
 
High Water Mark Sign in Wetumpka 

Eric Jones, Elmore County Emergency Management Agency Director (pictured left), welcomed everyone to the ceremony and introduced the local public officials present. Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist-in-Charge of the NWS Forecast Office in Birmingham then explained the purpose for erecting the High Water Mark Sign and gave some historical flood facts and statistics for the Coosa River at Wetumpka. Next Jerry Willis, Mayor of Wetumpka, shared some personal stories and memories of historic floods in the area, and closed by thanking all those involved in making the sign possible.

 

Local officials attending the ceremony (left to right in picture) included Eric Jones of the Elmore County Emergency Management Agency, Roger McNeil from the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Birmingham, Bill Psinakis of the United States Geological Survey in Montgomery, Wetumpka City Councilmen Greg Jones and Steve Gant, Elmore County Commissioner Stephanie Daniels Smoke, Jim Stefkovich from the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Birmingham, Elmore County Commissioner James “Trey” Taylor and Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Ellis.  Not pictured, but in attendance, Kim Trost of the Elmore County Emergency Management Agency.

Severe flooding has been a part of Wetumpka’s history through the years. Despite this reality, some residents may not be fully aware of the flood potential in their area. The High Water Mark Sign is a tool to remind and educate people in Wetumpka about the flood risk they periodically face from the Coosa River.

High Water Mark Sign in Wetumpka

 

Some Flood Facts and History for the Coosa River at Wetumpka

-          Since 1900, flood stage has been reached or exceeded 29 times, or on average once every four years

-          The river has exceeded: 47 feet (moderate flooding) twenty two times, or once every 5  years and 54 feet (major flooding) six times, or on average about every 16 years
  
-          Peak time for flooding is normally late winter or spring, but flooding can occur any time of the year

-          The Flood of record is 57.90 feet which occurred on April 8, 1938.   This flood devastated much of downtown Wetumpka.
 
-          More recently, the river reached a stage of 55.40 feet in April, 1979 and 51.46 feet in March, 1990.

-          Other major flood crests included 55.50 feet in March, 1961 – 55.40 feet in March, 1929 – and 55.60 feet in December, 1919.
 

The NWS Birmingham Office would like to express our appreciation to those responsible for making this event possible. Special thanks go to Eric Jones and Kim Trost of the Elmore County EMA, Athena Clark, Rick Treece and Scott Hedgecock of the United States Geological Survey in Montgomery, and members of the Elmore County Highway Department.


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