Severe flooding in Foley community causes caskets to unearth

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 7/23/21

FOLEY – Days’ worth of rain has caused significant flooding across Baldwin County but for residents of Beulah Heights, the most distressing sight was when rainwater pushed two caskets from the …

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Severe flooding in Foley community causes caskets to unearth

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FOLEY – Days’ worth of rain has caused significant flooding across Baldwin County but for residents of Beulah Heights, the most distressing sight was when rainwater pushed two caskets from the Earth at Southside Baptist Cemetery.

When the caskets were found on Friday, July 16, they were surrounded by water. Family members of the deceased threw tarps over the caskets for temporary protection. One casket had to be moved to the mortuary to wait until the grave drains before being returned. Surrounding community members say this isn’t the first time this has happened during heavy rainfalls.

During the July 19 Foley council meeting, eight citizens spoke during public comment to address drainage issues being experienced in their areas. Many of these citizens had neighbors or household members in the audience, and the speakers came from multiple parts of the city.

“Everybody has a water problem with all this rain, but we definitely need help with this,” Andrew Thomas, who lives near Southside Baptist Cemetery, told the council. “On Pecan Street, there’s a culvert going across the road, and they’ve got water coming all the way from up on Azalea Street coming down through there. That culvert that’s across the road is not taking the water, it’s too small of a culvert, but if you put a bigger culvert there and send all that water towards other people’s property, then you’re just going to flood those people out. There’s a mobile home that’s fixing to be put where the city is dumping its water, and this man can’t get in there to put his mobile home in. We want the city to try to do something about it.”

Thomas, who has worked in construction for approximately 50 years, suggested that a larger culvert be put in to run the water south to a pond to relieve the community of flooding.

Thomas’ neighbors told the council about another problem that led to the major flooding in the area: a ditch being closed off approximately two years ago. The ditch used to help divert the water away from yards and homes, but now that it’s gone, the water is left with nowhere else to go. The community is concerned as they watch new developments rise around their homes, which they fear will only make the drainage issues worse.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said he would speak with the city’s Public Works and Engineering Departments to try to come up with plans and strategies for dealing with drainage issues not only in the Beulah Heights area, but all throughout the city.

“All of these things we look into, over the years we’ve done a lot for drainage,” Hellmich said. “Unfortunately, here in Foley, we’re flat, but we work really hard to try to debottleneck these things, and we try not to flood somebody downstream when we try to fix somebody up here. All the drainage issues spoken about tonight, we have a list of them and we’re going to work at it, engineering-wise and with public works … Some of these are long-standing problems from back in the day when our draining standards were not very high. I’ll just tell you, because Foley being flat, lots of places there’s not any ditches, houses were just built. It’s something we’ve got to work on, and it’s something that we have to work with people to make sure we can put in swale ditches, but we’ll also go back and make sure to find any ditches that are plugged up and fix them.”