Storms that delivered torrential rains across Georgia did not spare the midstate Monday night, with considerable flooding occurring in Houston County and the surrounding area.
"You'd be crazy if you weren't scared," said Eric Propst, who escaped rising floodwaters along Bay Gall Creek near his home in Centerville with his wife Penny, their three young children and their dog. The water was up to the headlights of the family's van as they made it out of the driveway.
"I've never seen the water come up that fast," Propst said.
The Houston County 911 Center handled 1,030 phone calls from 9:45 p.m. Monday through 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, requiring 911 to summon additional personnel to work to handle the call volume, Houston County sheriff's Capt. Ricky Harlowe said. About 400 calls required dispatching officers — mostly to block off roads submerged under water, Harlowe said.
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"It's not as significant as the 1994 flood but it did have an impact on the community," said Harlowe, 911 Center director.
The storms were part of a system responsible for hundreds of washed out roads and interstate highways overnight and early Tuesday in and around Atlanta. Gov. Sonny Perdue issued a state of emergency for 17 Georgia counties. The counties are Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Crawford, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Stephens and Walker.
In Unadilla, public works supervisor Rodney Williams, 56, died of a heart attack while in the process of helping to load a boat on a trailer to take to help people stranded in mobile homes by flood waters, according to city administrator Perry Ivie. The tragedy occurred between midnight and 1 a.m. Tuesday, Ivie said."He not only worked for me but he was a friend and a good Christian man," Ivie said.
Williams worked for the city for more than 30 years, starting out as a garbage truck driver and working his way up to public works supervisor, Ivie said.
Propst went through the major flood in 1994 when water rose 4 feet inside his Brantley Road home, but that rain fell during a few days, he noted. The rain Monday night came down so hard and so fast that Propst said he had little time to get his family quickly to safety. There was not a moment to spare, he said.
"I hollered at wife my wife, ‘Let's go — now!'" said. The family spent the night in a nearby hotel.
Propst returned at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to survey the damage. He had to wade through the water to reach his home, where floodwaters were about 4 feet in the deepest parts of the yard.
About a foot of water was inside the home, damaging furniture, shoes, toys — anything that was at ground level. The water also made its way into the refrigerator and stove, Propst said.
Centerville Mayor Bubba Edwards, a retired pilot, said he was concerned about Bay Gall Creek flooding after watching weather patterns that indicated the storms were slow moving and stalling over the area. Stormwater drains were free and clear, but when that much rain falls at one time, there is just nowhere for the water to go, Edwards said.
Propst agreed, saying that — other than the flood of 1994 and some high water a few years ago that destroyed an outside air conditioning unit — usually any floodwater that pools in his yard quickly recedes. Propst, whose home is in a flood plain, said he does have insurance.
A Warner Robins police officer was dispatched about 10:45 p.m. to Smoke Rise Drive and Tharpe Road in response to a report of a stranded motorist, but citizens rescued the woman before the officer reached the scene, Harlowe said.
Warner Robins police and fire were also called upon Monday night to transport employees in the old Kroger shopping center at Houston Lake Road and Watson Boulevard after the employees were stranded by a flooded parking lot, said Tabitha Pugh, Warner Robins police public information officer. Police and fire shuttled the employees from the plaza to a nearby pharmacy parking lot, she said.
"It was a busy night in Houston County," Harlowe said. "Everybody pulled together."
Numerous roads were reported closed in Houston County. Peach, Dooly and Jones counties also reported road closures. Houston County sheriff's Capt. Robert West said no major accidents were reported because of the bad weather but there were reports of flooded vehicles.
"We've been lucky," West said.
The storm center page on the Flint Energies Web site reported power restored to all but a few customers by late Tuesday afternoon. Nearly 1,000 customers lost electricity at the height of the storm about 10 p.m. Monday.
No Houston County schools were closed Tuesday, though the rain did cause some maintenance problems. Mossy Creek Middle School and Pearl Stephens Elementary School both experienced water main breaks, but by 9 a.m. water was restored at both schools, said Beth McLaughlin, director of community and school affairs. Perry Primary School had 3 inches of water inside its gym, and several schools reported roof leaks.
In Peach County the flooding led to school buses being delayed, as well as more students arriving late for school as parents were forced to find alternative routes, said Sara Mason, community/parent liaison for Peach County schools.
Staff Writers Andrea Castillo and Liz Fabian, and The Associated Press, contributed to this article. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.