Record Flooding Across Georgia Claims Nine Lives
ATLANTA, Georgia, September 23, 2009 (ENS) - Swollen by five days of torrential rainfall, many Georgia rivers and streams have overtopped their banks, and at least nine people have lost their lives to the flood waters.

More than 30,000 homes in metro Atlanta are without power and more than 1,000 residences are estimated to be seriously flooded as indicated by aerial surveillance and 911 calls for help.

Governor Sonny Perdue Monday declared a state of emergency that includes 17 counties. On Tuesday, the governor asked President Barack Obama for an emergency declaration to assist the 17 counties with recovery efforts due to flooding and severe weather. If approved, this declaration will provide federal funds for emergency response measures and aid for losses.

"I am confident President Obama will recognize the extensive damage these floods have caused on such a large metro area," said Governor Perdue. "This request for disaster funding is essential for the recovery and rebuilding process to begin for these Georgians, local governments and businesses."

The Yellow River reached historic flood levels September 21-22, 2009. Residents of Rockdale County, 20 miles east of Atlanta, try to retrieve belongings from their flooded home. (Photo by David Henderson)
"Mary and I are saddened by the human cost the recent storms have wrought," said Governor Perdue. "We are currently focused on rescuing victims of the storms targeting Georgia and preventing further damage."

Heavy rainfall began across the Northeast Georgia Mountains Saturday morning, with additional heavy rain moving into the Atlanta metropolitan area by Saturday evening. Rainfall reports on Saturday showed 3-5 inches fell across portions of Northeast Georgia as well as across much of the Atlanta Metropolitan area.

The heavy rainfall continued on Sunday, mainly impacting the Atlanta Metropolitan area during the afternoon and evening.

Twenty-four hour rainfall totals reported Monday morning showed rainfall amounts of more than three inches across portions of the Atlanta metropolitan area with Douglas and Gwinnett counties hardest hit. Isolated areas in these counties received more than nine inches with 11.80 inches of rainfall reported in Douglas county.

Monday brought more heavy rainfall across the area with nine to 12 inches reported across western portions of the Atlanta Metropolitan area.

The heavy rainfall caused significant runoff into area streams and rivers, resulting in major to record flooding across the metropolitan area. Numerous street and homes have been flooded, with portions of the downtown connector closed due to water over the road.

The Georgia Department of Transportation reports the closure of 17 state bridges in 11 counties and 15 state roads in 10 counties due to flooding.

The flooded RM Clayton Water Reclamation Center (Photo courtesy City of Atlanta)

Water and sewer services have been disrupted by the flood waters.

By mobilizing all available personnel and resources, the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management has been able to restore function to the primary and tertiary treatment systems of the RM Clayton Water Reclamation Center and halt the bypass of raw sewage into the Chattahoochee River.

Commissioner Rob Hunter termed the effort "heroic" and praised plant personnel who have worked around the clock since the river flooded the plant, which stopped working Monday when the Chattahoochee River surged 12 feet above flood stage.

The floodwaters have been pumped out of the plant, which is now receiving sewage flows being treated at about 70 percent of normal. Plant Manager Rob Bush and Bureau of Wastewater Treatment and Collection Deputy Commissioner David St. Pierre said the Nancy Creek Tunnel was brought online early this morning. The plant still faces millions of dollars in repairs that are expected to take weeks to complete.

Efforts continue to restore the Toccoa Water Service in Stephen County, meanwhile a Boil Water Advisory is in effect.

The Villa Rica sewage treatment plant in Carroll County remains closed. Several wastewater treatment plants in Gwinnett County are closed with sewage being bypassed.

Efforts are underway to supply a potable water tanker for Douglas County Hospital.

There are 15 school districts and three universities closed at this time. Six Red Cross and partner shelters have been set up in four counties with 206 occupants.

The U.S. Geological Survey has deployed field crews to help repair more than 20 streamgages that were destroyed by flooding. Crews are rushing to install temporary gages and make streamflow measurements to provide real-time flood information to emergency managers.

In Georgia, there are about 300 USGS-operated streamgages that measure water levels, streamflow and rainfall. The information is used for public safety and flood forecasting by the National Weather Service. More than 50 streamgage stations have measurements above flood stage.

"These are historic floods and we know that people's lives are at risk, so we burn the candle at both ends to try to keep our real-time gages running," said Brian McCallum, USGS supervisory hydrologist, who oversees the streamgage operations and the field crews. "Because many of the gages have been destroyed, we are attempting to install as many temporary gages as possible to ensure that real-time data is available to emergency managers."

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.