Fort Payne faces legal action in death of drowned woman

This photo of flash flooding on March 25, 2021 illustrates how quickly rising waters can surprise motorists crossing the creek on Airport Road West in Fort Payne. This was in the same area where, on Saturday, June 19, 2021, a 23-year-old Rainsville woman drowned as Big Wills Creek flooded during intense storms that killed 14 people across Alabama. To be clear, this is not the vehicle involved in Saturday's fatal incident and merely demonstrates the impact of flooding from earlier this year in the same area where it happened.  

The City of Fort Payne faces legal action connected to the death of a Rainsville woman who drowned in a flooded creek on Father’s Day weekend. According to the preliminary agenda for Tuesday’s Fort Payne City Council meeting, the City forwarded the claim to its insurance carrier.

MaKayla Danielle Ross, 23, was an employee of a nearby restaurant. On June 19, her vehicle got caught in rising waters as she attempted to drive home from work around 10 p.m. Flash flooding occurred during heavy rains attributed to Tropical Storm Claudette, dumping nearly 10-inches of rain in portions of DeKalb County during a 24-hour period, according to figures provided by the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

No specific details are available about the claim.

The police incident report indicated officers were nearby assisting sleeping transfer truck drivers to move their vehicles out of the flood-prone area.

“While doing this, officers noticed a white passenger car in the water up against the bridge behind the Mapco Station. Officers attempted to get the driver out of the vehicle, but the vehicle quickly submerged and was swept under the bridge. Searches continued throughout the night for the victim and her vehicle by several officers and the Swift Water Rescue Teams,” read a press release sent by Fort Payne Assistant Police Chief Lee Traylor.

DeKalb County closed six roads following the storm due to washouts. Eight Alabama counties faced power outages and other problems that led Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a state of emergency. Ross was among 14 people killed in Alabama during the storms.

In August, Public Works Director Tim Williams said the City ordered $242,000 in new, larger pipes had been ordered, along with a excavator to install it in four sections of the city that have flooded in recent years, including the “bottleneck” on Airport Road and Highway 35. Williams said they also planned to straighten and widen the creek behind the WZOB radio station, which is where the deceased woman’s car was found once flood waters receded, according to the police statement.

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