The Macon Levee in 1994
|Macon Telegraph, The (GA) July 7, 1994
Section: A Edition: HOME Page: 1
Memo:Staff writers Nancy Badertscher, Cheryl Fincher, Mitch Clarke, Audrey Post, Sharese Shields and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
18 DEAD IN WAKE OF KILLER FLOOD
Eric Velasco The Macon Telegraph
The Killer Flood of 1994 left at least 18 people dead in Georgia including 11 in the midstate. Several parts of Middle Georgia were isolated Wednesday, with whole towns shut off from the outside world as rising waters threatened levees, dams, homes and businesses.At the end of the day Wednesday, Montezuma resembled a lake. About 500 people were evacuated Wednesday from the downtown area. Seven fatalities were reported in Macon County.
Americus was more like an island. Rising water from 21 inches of rain completely cut off the Sumter County town, even shutting down all four radio stations. Seven drowning victims were taken to the Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus on Wednesday. The victims were trapped in their homes or cars by floodwaters or mud slides.
At day's end, water from the Ocmulgee River threatened to flow over the Otis Redding Bridge, near Interstate 16 in Macon. That could be the death of the bridge, officials from the Army Corps of Engineers warned city officials Wednesday. Corps experts believe the bridge is not structurally sound enough to withstand the rushing water and it may already have been damaged.
Macon's nearby levee broke about 8 p.m. Wednesday, said Macon Mayor Tommy Olmstead. The 30-foot tall, 1-mile long levee runs from the Otis Redding Bridge south to an industrial park and curves inland.
Georgia Power Co. officials feared that the water surging over the levee would damage an important power station near Central City Park, threatening to interrupt power to much of the downtown area, including all three hospitals and nearby industrial parks.
The Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brought 20,000 sandbags and three twoperson teams to Macon in an attempt to stabilize the Macon levee. Inmates and city workers were stacking them Wednesday evening before and after the levee broke.
Everything east of Seventh Street was evacuated. This area includes Central City Park, the sewage treatment plant, businesses in the industrial area and the landfill. Very few residents live in the area.
``All we can hope to do is minimize the damage at this point,'' said Israel Small, the city's chief administrative officer. ``No one can know for sure if the treatment plant will be lost. We need to pray for sunshine. We don't need any more water.''
Gov. Zell Miller, touring Macon on Wednesday to see the flood damage firsthand, promised to help the city get bottled water and said he would provide police reinforcements and prison work crews if needed.
``I've never seen anything like this,'' Miller said. ``Georgia has never seen anything like this. ... Never in the history of Interstates 16 and 75 have those roads been blocked. Now they both are.''
Borders were effectively sealed in Sumter and Macon counties, as all roads were closed going in and out of those counties. Hundreds of interstate travelers also were stranded because portions of Interstates 75 and 16 were under water.
Five major dams burst Wednesday in Houston County, sending torrents of water from Houston Lake, Lake Joy and Leisure Lake. People living downstream spent a tense night and morning as the dams broke one after another between 12:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Other dams were breached or overflowing in Bibb, Butts, Coweta, Taylor and Lamar counties.
About 500,000 people in seven counties including Bibb, Lamar, Butts and Sumter counties are expected to have shortages of drinking water, some for as long as a week. State and local officials were trying to bring drinking water to the affected areas.
Damage statewide was estimated at about $58 million not including losses suffered by residents and businesses. That includes $40 million worth of damage to county roads, drainage ditches, culverts and pipes; $15 million to state roads and bridges; and $3 million to water systems.
River flood warnings remained for the Flint and Ocmulgee rivers, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said.
Shelters were open in Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Lamar, Monroe, Peach and Taylor counties. Peach County reported 125 people stranded and in shelters. Most were outoftown travelers who were diverted off Interstate 75, said Janet Raper with the Red Cross.
In other floodrelated developments Wednesday:
Gov. Zell Miller declared a state of emergency in 30 counties. About 800 people statewide have beenevacuated. Middle Georgia counties under a state of emergency included Dooly, Houston, Jones, Macon, Sumter, Twiggs, Bibb, Butts, Crawford, Lamar, Monroe, Peach, Taylor and Upson.
Traffic on highways and county roads across the region was affected by the flooding.
I-16 was closed at I-75. The only way of getting over the Ocmulgee River in Bibb County was across the Second Street Bridge, and rising waters were threatening that route Wednesday afternoon.
I-75 traffic near Perry was rerouted via U.S. 319 and U.S. 280 to avoid a portion of I-75 near Perry that flooded and was shut down.
I-75 was closed early Wednesday at the BibbPeach county line. Northbound traffic was rerouted via I-16 and other highways, then back to I-75 a 142-mile detour until I-16 also was closed by flooding later in the day. Southbound traffic was diverted at Bass Road.
Several 18-wheelers were stranded on a patch of dry ground on I-75 north, near the Pierce Avenue exit in Macon. Water was as deep as 4 feet on the highway.
Streets in Upson County were all but impassible. Several roads in the county were closed and all the main bridges were out along the Flint River up to Riverdale.
Only one major road Georgia 341 was open Wednesday in Crawford County. Residents from Crawford and Upson counties living near the Flint River which is expected to reach record flood levels were asked to evacuate.
State officials were signing emergency contracts to supply water to Butts and Lamar counties and the city of Macon. Donations of bottled water were being solicited, and federal assistance was being pursued.
The water shortage was blamed on inoperable water treatment plants and breached reservoirs, the Emergency Management Agency reported. Macon's water pumping station and water treatment plants were under water Wednesday.
It was a truly amazing sight for longtime Maconites when people were evacuated by boat down Riverside Drive from a nearby motel. Others were led to safety on a nature trail behind Tinsley Elementary School.
At the National Guard Armory in Forsyth, 27 flood victims sought shelter Tuesday night and six were still there at midafternoon Wednesday.
With the exception of a family that was stranded en route from Panama City to north metro Atlanta, most came from the High Falls area, where they had lost all their belongings in the flood waters, said Sgt. James Burdick.
But most people were in fairly good spirits after a lot of discussion Tuesday night about car tires sliding off the sides of bridges and other close calls, Burdick said.
``As long as they're all together and alive, I guess they feel pretty good,'' he said. ``I think they realized how lucky they are and how little material things mean.''
Jackie Kiff, owner of the local Ford Dealership, rests on a floating timber whilre waiting for a boat in Montezuma. Kiff was attempting to rescue his pickup truck from the floodwaters. Color(Danny Gilleland/The Macon Telegraph)
Macon Telegraph, The (GA) August 18, 1994 Section: B Edition: HOME Page: 1
STORM STOKES FLOOD FEARS
Tammy J. Ussery and Cheryl Fincher
The Ocmulgee River once again is headed out of its banks, but Macon residents can relax. So can Baldwin County residents, who feared - without merit - on Wednesday that numerous floodgates had been opened at the Lake Sinclair dam. Not so.
Flooding in Georgia from rains deposited by Tropical Storm Beryl, which moved relatively quickly through the state on Tuesday, appeared to be minor, although secondary roads were flooded and some bridges washed out in northeast Georgia.
But this tropical storm was nothing like the last one Alberto dallied for days and caused record flooding last month. The July flooding killed 31 people, destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and forced at least 40,000 residents to evacuate.
Flooding caused by Beryl is predicted to be minor. The Ocmulgee River in Macon will rise past the 18-foot flood stage, affecting only lowlying areas near the river.
``We're only calling for 20 feet at this point,'' Meteorologist John Pendergrast, of the National Weather Service in Macon, said Wednesday.
The river is expected to crest sometime this afternoon, said Gene Field, deputy director of the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency.
``The main thing (to realize) is that there is no danger at a 20-foot crest,'' Field said. ``There shouldn't be any problem.''
During Alberto, the Ocmulgee crested at 35 feet, inundating the Macon Water Authority's water treatment plant, knocking out drinking water supplies for threeweeks and flooding several neighborhoods.
Flooding from Beryl, which dropped about 2 inches of rain in many parts of Middle Georgia, is possible in forest and agricultural areas along the river banks, Pendergrast said.
Floodwaters caused by Alberto breached a levee near Central City Park in Macon. But the levee should hold during this 20-foot crest, Field said.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has set up a temporary horseshoeshaped levee and has fortified it with sandbags until permanent repairs can be made, he said.
``Even with the levee broke, we don't expect a problem,'' Field said.
In Milledgeville, early morning radio warnings about the Oconee River flooding below Sinclair Dam had a few residents worried Wednesday, but Georgia Power Co. officials said there never was a problem.
``Apparently, there was misinformation from the weather service,'' said company spokesman Rick Kimble. ``We never had more than four floodgates open (out of 24) at one time.''
Milledgeville Police Chief Herman Waller said there were no reports of neighborhoods flooding, even from those near the river.
Rain in north Georgia did cause both lakes Sinclair and Oconee to rise. But those lakes ``are so huge they can take a lot of water,'' Kimble said.
He said the floodgates were opened one at a time beginning about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday. By noon, two were closed, and then another opened in late afternoon, Kimble said.
``Two or four floodgates does not mean the river is in a flood stage,'' he said. ``If you want to talk about flooding, talk about Rabun, Burton, Tugaloo. They were bombarded. Tallulah got 13 inches of rain. They have six (flood) gates open.''
Beryl toppled trees and caused power outages in parts of north Georgia before it moved on to the Carolinas. Gainesville had 5 inches of rain.More than a dozen roads were closed because of flooding in Habersham County, said Clarkesville fire Capt. Doug Carter. The White County Sheriff's Department also reported a couple of county roads closed.
About 6,000 Georgia Power customers were back on line Wednesday morning after crews worked through the night repairing lines in northeast Georgia, said Ed Brown, operating supervisor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!!
For several years, we and other concerned organizations and individuals, including the Creek and Seminole people, have engaged in an effort to prevent a four-lane, divided highway from desecrating the Ocmulgee Old Fields Traditional Cultural Property (District), the first listing of its kind on the National Register of Historic Places east of the Mississippi River. The TCP encompasses:
Ocmulgee National Monument
Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve
Most of Macon’s Central City Park
Much of the Ocmulgee River Heritage Greenway
The proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension would bisect wetlands between Ocmulgee National Monument’s Macon Plateau Unit and its Lamar Mounds and Village Unit; the highway’s interchange with I-16 would be partially constructed on the Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve; the road would sever the wildlife corridor linking the National Monument to Bond Swamp National Wildlife just downstream. This “Longest Bridge in Georgia” is the Georgia Department of Transportation’s preferred cross-Macon connector for the Fall Line Freeway. Construction costs for this four-mile-long strip of concrete are currently estimated at $130-million. Local proponents of this route refuse to consider prudent and feasible alternatives that would save massive expeditures of precious public funds and preserve Macon’s nationally significant cultural and natural heritage. For more information: