CRESTVIEW — Area river waters are receding to normal depths after a deluge in Alabama sent rivers above their Crestview area flood stages and disrupted travel throughout North Okaloosa County and South Alabama.

However, New Year’s weekend looks seasonally pleasant, weather authorities report, with clear skies and high temperatures in the mid-50s and lows in upper 30s forecast.

Roger and Cathy Powell’s annual Christmas Day visit with their daughters to relatives in Laurel Hill almost didn’t happen due to torrential rains that struck their Andalusia, Alabama, area Christmas Eve.

“The Wing-Lockhart Road was under water,” Roger Powell said. “We had to go down through Blackman.”

The same weather system that stymied Christmas travelers between Florida and Alabama continued to drop torrential rains in Crestview through Monday.

CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

While weather watchers weren’t surprised, many residents distracted by Christmas preparations were caught unaware.

“We were planning to go to Christmas Eve (church) service in Andalusia when our family members called to tell us to avoid the roads,” Ann McDonald said.

“It was foreseen for awhile,” Crestview native Chayne Sparagowski, now an emergency management planner in Texas, said. “The flood warnings have been posted for about a week and a half from the National Weather Service.”

Sparagowski, who operates an NWS reporting station in Crestview, was driving home for Christmas and said he’d been carefully watching forecasts.

“A bunch of things brought the storm,” he said. “There’s been a low-pressure system slowly migrating through the South and it’s just been one storm after the other.

“But we’ll have a good New Year’s weekend. It’ll actually feel like New Year’s.”

OIL & WATER

Even after rains ceased in the Crestview area, surges from swollen South Alabama rivers and creeks continued downriver and  through the North Okaloosa County area.

“We just got a little bit of the storm, but northern Alabama and just north of us over the state line got quite a bit of it, which is why we’re seeing the flooding,” Sparagowski said.

The Yellow River crested above 14 feet early Dec. 27, more than 2 feet above flood stage.

At the U.S. Highway 90 bridge construction site in Milligan, heavy equipment parked on the banks of the river during the Christmas holiday wound up stuck in flood waters.

Some Milligan residents complained of the smell of diesel fuel in the water and floating metal refuse containers joining downriver-bound debris.

Florida Department of Transportation Public Information Director Ian Satter said upon receipt of a Department of Environmental Protection report, “the contractor checked and didn’t detect any fuel spills.”

Just in case, floating turbidity barriers were deployed in the fast-moving water for erosion control and fuel spill containment while the contractor removed the flooded equipment.