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Flood September 23, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Awe.
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road_washout

So apparently here’s what happened. A “northern hemispheric flow” caused the jet stream to be shaped like the Greek letter omega. That trapped weather systems above the Atlanta area and wouldn’t let them leave.

Next, a tropical pressure system that didn’t quite merit a name came up from the Gulf of Mexico and got trapped in the omega-shaped block. An additional block named Rex (no, seriously) meant the atmosphere was already saturated, so the resulting raindrops were physically larger than normal.

On top of all that (literally) the air was all swirly above the tropical thing, squeezing more rain out. As if that wasn’t enough, there was no front to push the rain across the flow. Instead, each newborn storm plodded slowly along the blocks, not through them.

All these Greek letters and jet streams and swirly atmospheres created a perfect rain-producing machine. The girls had a bucket on the front porch, about 10 inches deep. We emptied it twice, and now it’s full again. No meteorologist has ever seen a convergence of weather patterns like this. The rain just pounded and pounded for hours on end, and when it wasn’t pounding there was still a steady downpour.

My buddy Joey said yesterday that it was at about 10:00 Monday morning when his thoughts changed from “This sure is interesting weather,” to “This is not good.” Indeed, the Sunday downpours were just a curiosity. It was even hard to hear the pastor preach on Sunday morning, so heavy was the rain on the roof of the church. But it just never stopped. We went to sleep wondering when the rain would let up, the girls hearing rumors that some school systems were closed.

Early Monday morning I drove to work in darkness with a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, my little car plowing through standing water like a champ. School was on in our county, so the girls begrudgingly braved the storm and headed out. Then along came that time Joey mentioned, when things got bad. The rain never stopped, and though it was light at my office, it was torrential up in Kennesaw. Amy called to check in, and while we talked I heard a massive “BOOM”, a crackle in the phone, and a little shriek from a startled Amy. Lightning. She called back a little later, this time on her cell phone. The nearby lightning strike had knocked out the phone lines, and a TV box, and a monitor. And the rain kept coming. I started to try to wrap things up early so I could go home. More calls followed, each with a little more urgency as the house started to leak.

I drove home around noon through surprisingly light rain until I got close to Kennesaw. That’s where the wipers went from INT to ON to HI, when the visibility went to almost nothing. There was a big truck in front of me at one point – the crazy thing passed me – and it got about two car lengths ahead of me and completely disappeared. It just blended in with the rain and vanished. It was like the gray clouds had dripped like paint into the air all around me.

The interstate was starting to develop some sizeable standing water, but I was fine as long as I stayed in the highest lanes. When I finally got home, I was surprised to see our front door wide open, with buckets and bags and towels scattered about. The rain was actually coming through the wall above the front door, seeping through to the inside wall, and escaping in through the molding above the door, then through the floor, then into the basement below. We had two other leaks in the back and side.

I fetched some bigger buckets and tarps and got most of the leaks redirected into the 5 gallon buckets. I went outside to check the gutters, which were all overflowing. That’s when I noticed the creek behind our house, raging like it had never raged before. It’s really just a storm drain from the street above. We built a bridge across it a few years back, and the water had never reached the bridge, even in the biggest of storms. Monday, the water coursed a foot over the bridge, forming a standing wave. That water, like most of our street gutters, drains to Proctor Creek, which runs right through our neighborhood. If our little creek had risen three feet, I wondered about Proctor Creek.

I didn’t need to wonder long. The Creek had risen high enough to wash out the road around the neighborhood in several places.

 road_collapse

Roads that hadn’t collapsed were underwater.

submerged_stopsigns

School officials scrambled to get kids home. The announcement came that schools were releasing early. The buses went to collect the middle schoolers first. They started on their way, found the roads impassable, and retreated to the school. Some parents managed to pick up their kids, only to find the way back to their homes blocked. Our house became a bit of a temporary shelter, with friends stopping in so their kids could use the bathroom, then staying because there was nowhere else to go.

The rain abated, and the kids finally made it home. They haven’t been back to school since. The washed-out roads have collapsed even more. The pastor who was drowned out by the sound of the storm on Sunday had five feet of water in his basement by Monday.

By Monday night, the water level had dropped dramatically, and the aftermath was evident. We went on a walk through the mud and debris, astonished by the violent torrent that used to be Proctor Creek.

This is one of those little “feeder” creeks, and a bridge that normally sits four feet above the stream below. At the very end, the camera faces the submerged soccer fields. The baseball field on the other end of the bridge had been underwater well above the outfield fence, up to the scoreboard.

The scene remains a little eerie. Abandoned cars line the roads as people have had to walk through muddy streets and yards to get home. Items are strangely displaced. Soccer goals sit mangled in heaps, hundreds of yards away from their fields. We spotted a trailer high up in the trees in the middle of the woods. And while we were walking, I heard a hiss coming through a small hole in the ground, near a trail through the middle of a field. I bent down to listen, and the sound emanated from a single hole, a small fissure in the dirt. It was hard to tell if it was just air escaping from somewhere, but it sounded an awful lot like raging waters deep below us. I shuddered.

We fared better than so many. Random things don’t work in the house and, inexplicably, my car radio no longer picks up Radio Disney. Is that a bad thing? The house is drying out, and the damage is not too bad. We know when we watch the news how much worse it could have been. People died, and some remain missing. Interstates, those behemoth arteries, remain submerged. Six Flags is underwater, and I wonder if it will ever reopen.

People talk of floods of “Biblical proportions”, and I think we got a small taste. The power of the water to so dismissively wash away any mighty structure inconveniencing its path is harrowing. The rapidity of its rise is shocking. The relative futility of our efforts to shape the earth the way we see fit is humbling.

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Comments»

1. Tim Holbrook - September 25, 2009

Wow! Glad to hear you all are OK. We got the rain, but little flooding in Druid Hills. Sorry to hear about the house damage.

2. Marcie - September 25, 2009

Glad you’re all okay too. Love the way you write – started off with biblical “symbols” and concluded with a biblical analogy. Um, this is why I bought a place in the mountains :/

3. Top 9 of 2009 « A Window in the World - January 8, 2010

[…] 9. Flood […]


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