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Historic Rains in Atlanta Leave Families Scrambling

Atlanta Voice, News Report, Stan Washington Posted: Sep 25, 2009

The two days of sunshine metro Atlanta and north Georgia experienced on Tuesday and Wednesday was like receiving an earlier Christmas present as the water from torrential rains over the past six days started to recede.

State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials were able by noon Wednesday to reopen a stretch of I-20 west of Atlanta shut down by waters from Sweet Water Creek to traffic and a stretch of I-285 which runs over the Chattahoochee River.

But many roads, especially in Douglas, Gwinnett and Cobb counties remained closed, but some flooded out residents were slowly returning home to assess the damage and to start the clean-up process.

But for some families like those of 2-year-old Preston Slade and 14-year-old Nick Osley, they have the additional burden of burying their loved ones who drowned in the flood. Slade died when strong currents swept away their mobile in Carroll County. In Trion, Osley died when he and a friend tried to see if anyone needed rescuing from a Jeep that had become trapped from waters from the Chattooga River. The death toll from what has been called historic flooding now stands at 10.

After surveying the flooded areas by helicopter state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine put the initial damage conservatively at $250 million. He said Wednesday morning that it would probably go higher after the waters receded.

Oxendine said his office is fielding questions from homeowners up until 7 p.m. this week. He urged homeowners who happened to have flood insurance to read their policies very carefully. If you have questions you can call: 800-656-2298 or visit the website at: www.gainsurance.org.

President Barack Obama is assuring Georgia officials that requests for federal aid to deal with deadly torrential rains will receive prompt attention.

Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro says the president called Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue Tuesday night and expressed condolences for the deaths and concern for residents of flooded areas. Perdue gave Obama an update on the situation and they discussed the ongoing response to the emergency.

After taking an aerial tour of the damage, Perdue Tuesday asked the Obama administration to declare north Georgia a state of emergency. Hopefully, that the declaration would fuel some federal assistance dollars into the state, he said.

With the lives lost and the expenses our local governments will face, I think it is worthy of a declaration, the governor said.

He also pleaded with impatient residents to stay away from flooded areas until the waters have receded. Five people had to be rescued after they ignored barricades set up for one flooded road in Douglas County.

The belief that Atlanta is a landlocked city can now be rightfully classified as an urban legend.
Although, the metro area is at least 4 to 5 hours by car from the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to the generosity of a low pressure system sitting over Texas, it brought six to seven days of water from both locations and dumped them on mostly of Georgia and other parts of the southeast.

The effects of these heavy storms which dumped rain on top of already rising rivers, creeks, streams and overly saturated grounds were catastrophic. Never in modern history has metro Atlanta and north Georgia suffered such devastation from torrential rains.

Ive never seen it this bad, was the common refrain from longtime residents of metro Atlanta (including this reporter) as streets, highways and interstates were closed; bridges and roads were washed out; some metro area schools were closed; (We dont close schools because of rain! Well, at least we didnt before now.)

We witnessed people sleeping in emergency shelters after being rescued by boat from their flooded communities. As of Tuesday night, 350 people were still in shelters. Activities were cancelled Monday evening; and the ultimate devastation the loss of life. Seven people died as result of drowning.
This kind of thing doesnt happen to a land-locked city like Atlanta. Not a city where just a short two years ago people were praying for rain to come to end a three year drought.

Although, scattered showers were scheduled for the rest of the week, rain-soaked Georgia got a break with no rain on Tuesday or Wednesday. According to meteorologists rain was expected to be back in the area by Saturday.

The storms produced scenes in Atlanta that had never been seen before, since maybe 1946. Scenes like the downtown connector being shut down near Freedom Parkway because of flooding; the interstate connector called Spaghetti Junction north of the Atlanta being shut down Monday morning because of flooding; I-285 north and south on the west side near South Atlanta road which runs over the Chattahoochee River closed; I-20 headed west between Fulton Industrial Blvd and Fairburn Road shut down; a huge sink hole trapping residents in a Douglas County subdivision; creeks in Douglas County and Chattooga counties turning into raging rapids.

Homes were not the only ones that suffered extensive water damage. Shopping centers like the one in Vinings in Cobb County had waste deep water. For those roads that werent washed out, they were blocked by fallen trees which also claimed their share of homes.

On Monday, Cobb County which was hit with over 15 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, they had 180 roads closed. By 11 p.m. that night only 20 had been reopened.

For all of the praying to end the draught that went on across the state by churches, politicians, gardeners and others, they forgot one important request - when the rains should stop.

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