Rainsville woman drowns in flooded creek

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.  

A 23-year-old Rainsville woman drowned Saturday night as a tributary stream flowing into Big Wills Creek flooded during intense storms that killed 14 people across Alabama. Nearly 10-inches of rain were observed falling locally in a 24-hour period.

MaKayla Danielle Ross was an employee of the nearby Santa Fe Cattle Co. restaurant, which closed on Father’s Day Sunday in her memory. Her Facebook page shows she married in March of this year.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help pay for funeral expenses and help her husband, Jeffrey. Services will be held Thursday at Robertson Chapel.

DeKalb County was under a flash flood warning following hours of intense rainfall attributed to Tropical Storm Claudette. According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, the corridor along Interstate 59 received the state’s most rain as what was left of Claudette passed through.

Fort Payne Assistant Police Chief Lee Traylor issued a press release: 

"On Saturday, June 19th at approximately 10 p.m., Fort Payne Police Officers were on scene in the area of the Mapco Station and Dunham’s Sporting Goods lots assisting sleeping transfer truck drivers, to move their vehicles out of the area because of flooding. 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.

"The deceased victim was located Sunday morning at approximately 8:30 am by the Fort Payne Fire Department and Fischer Swift Water Rescue Teams... After the flood waters receded, her vehicle was found on Monday at 8 a.m. by Fort Payne Public Works. 

"Assistant Chief Traylor wanted to thank everyone involved for their recovery efforts, and his appreciation to the Fort Payne Police Officer’s, Fort Payne Fire and Rescue, Fischer Swift Water Rescue Teams, Dekalb County EMA and Fort Payne Public Works." 

DeKalb County Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Michael Posey said six county roads remained closed on Monday due to washouts. They included County Road 39, County Road 86, County Road 101, County Road 107 in Collinsville, County Road 281 inside Fort Payne and County Road 411 in Crossville. There were numerous tree down reports along with widespread power outages across the county Friday night into Saturday morning.

According to the National Weather Service in Huntsville, one DeKalb County observation station south of Fort Payne reported 9.83 inches of rain between 7 a.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday. Other stations observed 7.60-inches near Fort Payne, 6.65-inches near Crossville and 6.14-inches near Valley Head. According to U.S. Climate Data, Fort Payne averages four inches of rain during a typical June.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Monday morning in eight Alabama counties because of the loss of lives, injuries, power outages, and other problems attributed to Claudette.

In Butler County, 10 people were killed Saturday afternoon on Interstate 65 when a Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch vehicle and a small SUV hydroplaned and became part of a 17-vehicle crash in which seven of the vehicles caught fire. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) continue to investigate.

A 31-year-old Birmingham man was also swept away in flood waters around the same time as Ross after he lost his balance while reportedly assisting with moving a road hazard from a street and disappeared in the water. His body was also recovered Monday morning. A father and son were also killed in the same storm when a tree fell on their home in Tuscaloosa County.

DeKalb EMA monitored additional rounds of pop-up scattered thunderstorms expected to dump additional heavy rainfall in areas already saturated by the torrential rains as a flash flood watch was issued for DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall and Cullman counties until 7 p.m. Tuesday.

To donate to the MaKayla Ross Memorial GoFundMe page, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/makayla-ross-memorial.

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