Welcome to Madison and Morgan counties
Situated in the heart of the Tennessee River Valley, Madison and Morgan counties lie amid the rolling hills and scenic vales of northern Alabama. Nashville, Tennessee, is just 100 miles to the north, with Mississippi to the west, and to the east, Georgia.
Madison County is the state’s third most populated county with a per capita income second only to Shelby County, Alabama. Madison County has a population of 353,089, according to the 2015 U.S. Census, and is home to Huntsville, the county seat, and the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal. Madison County includes 806 square miles stretching from the southernmost ridges of the Appalachians to the Tennessee River.
Morgan County and its county seat, Decatur, lie along the banks of the Tennessee River. Morgan County, which covers 580 square miles, is just southwest of Redstone Arsenal. The county has 119,565 residents, according to the 2015 Census, and offers big-city conveniences with the warmth and charm of a small community. Decatur, less than 30 minutes from Huntsville, is home to the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic every Memorial Day weekend.
Madison County is the site of Alabama’s top paid tourist attraction, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The space museum celebrates America’s space program, which was forged in Huntsville, known as “Rocket City” because Huntsville is where the rockets were developed that put men on the moon. The Huntsville Botanical Garden, a 112-acre flowering oasis, is at the city’s heart, and the county also prides itself on its welcoming Southern hospitality, a vibrant culture and arts scene and local sports teams.
What with its location along the Tennessee River, Morgan County offers almost endless opportunities for fishing, boating, water skiing and other outdoor activities. At 35,000 acres, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a grand place to hike the five interpretive trails, observe wildlife, bird-watch, fish, hunt and boat. Recreation facilities abound: The 750-acre Point Mallard Park and Aquatic Center is in Decatur, and so are numerous golf courses and recreation centers. The state’s largest and oldest champion winged elm tree stands along the Green Mountain Nature Trail.
Both counties offer a favorable cost of living and quality of life, excellent schools and universities, beautiful neighborhoods, top-notch health care, shopping, dining and nightlife for residents to explore.
Madison and Morgan counties were carved out of lands acquired from the Chickasaw and Cherokee nations through treaty after the area was largely depopulated by disease, land disputes and pressure from the U.S. government.
Madison County was established in 1808 by the governor of Mississippi Territory. It is recognized as the birthplace of Alabama, which was founded there 11 years later. In 1811, Huntsville, the county seat, became Alabama’s first incorporated town. Twickenham Historic District encompasses one-half of the original Town of Twickenham, Huntsville’s first official name. The district is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For much of Madison County’s history, the economy rested on agriculture. Madison was one of the largest cotton-producing counties in the state, and textile mills operated around the county.
This changed when a group of German rocket scientists, led by Wernher von Braun, came to Redstone Arsenal in 1950. They developed, among others, the Redstone rocket, which was modified to launch the first two Americans into space. Tens of thousands of jobs flowed into the area as a result of the Space Race with the then-Soviet Union, and the population of Madison County grew from 72,903 in 1950 to more than 350,000 today.
Morgan County was created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818 and was originally called Cotaco County for a creek that flows through it. In 1821, it was renamed after Revolutionary War Gen. Daniel Morgan of Virginia. The county seat was Somerville until 1891, when it was transferred to Decatur. Decatur prides itself on its arts-based economy and industrial roots and includes the Alabama Center for the Arts, the Cook Museum of Natural Science and the restoration of the Historic Train Depot.
One of the greatest treasures of both counties is the natural beauty of northern Alabama. Combined with the counties’ historical significance, affordability, thriving economy and Southern charm, Madison and Morgan counties are rich with the best that Alabama has to offer.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Madison and Morgan counties enjoy warm, sunny days year-round, with mild winters and an average of 4 inches of snow per year. Moderate to high humidity is offset by 200 sunny days each year. The warmest month is July, with an average high of 91 degrees and an average low of 65. The coldest month is January, with an average low of 32 degrees. Both counties get from 50 to 60 inches of rain per year, compared with a U.S. average of 37.
Every second counts in a disaster so planning and preparation can be lifesavers.
Alabama’s disaster preparedness and response is managed by the state Emergency Management Agency. It gives residents, communities, public safety professionals, businesses and schools valuable information and resources for various emergency scenarios. The website provides information on creating an emergency plan and emergency kit, pet preparedness and disaster preparedness for seniors. For more information about local disaster preparedness, visit http://ema.alabama.gov/preparedness.cfm.
The following are considered significant hazards in Alabama.
Madison and Morgan counties’ proximity to the Tennessee River make flooding a threat. Area terrain can be poorly absorbent, and dry channels, ditches and lake beds fill quickly. This can lead to flash floods.
A flash flood watch is issued when flash flooding is expected within six hours after heavy rains end. A flash flood warning is issued for life- and property-threatening flooding that will hit within six hours. During a flash flood watch or warning, stay tuned to local radio or TV stations or a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio for weather updates.
If you are outdoors during a rainstorm, seek higher ground. Avoid walking through any floodwaters — even water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. If you are driving, avoid flooded areas. The majority of deaths in flash floods occur when people try to drive through flooded areas. Roads concealed by water may not be intact, and water only a foot deep can displace a vehicle. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water can engulf a vehicle and sweep it away.
Some exposure to sunlight is good, even healthy, but too much can be dangerous. Broad-spectrum ultraviolet radiation, listed as a known carcinogen by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, can cause blistering sunburns, as well as long-term problems like skin cancer, cataracts and immune system suppression. Overexposure also causes wrinkling and premature aging of the skin.
Cloud cover reduces UV levels, but not completely. Depending on the thickness of the cloud cover, you can still burn on a cold, overcast day, so be prepared with sunglasses, sunscreen, long-sleeved garments, wide-brimmed hats and a parasol.
While more likely at certain times of year, thunderstorms can happen anytime. A severe thunderstorm can knock out power, bring high winds, lightning, flash floods and hail, and spin into a twister in seconds. Pay attention to storm warnings. Remember the rule: “When thunder roars, head indoors.” Once inside, avoid electrical appliances and plumbing fixtures, and use only a cordless telephone in an emergency. Unplug your desktop computer. Do the same with other plugged-in electronics or use surge protectors. The National Weather Service recommends following the 30/30 Rule: People should seek shelter if the “Flash-to-Bang” delay — length of time in seconds from the sight of the lightning flash to the arrival of its subsequent thunder — is 30 seconds or less, and remain under cover for 30 minutes after the final thunderclap.
For more safety information, visit the National Weather Service’s website.
Tornadoes can develop quickly, with minimal warning, so it is important to have a plan in place before they occur. If a tornado watch is issued, weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, such as during a severe thunderstorm. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should take shelter immediately during a tornado warning.
Know where the safest place of shelter is in your home — a basement, or an inside room on the lowest floor (like a closet or bathroom) if your home does not have a basement. Avoid windows and get under something sturdy, like a heavy table, and cover your body with a blanket or mattress to protect yourself from flying debris.
For more information on tornado preparedness, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.