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Monday, 21 September 2009

Schools forced to shut down Monday in several north Georgia counties.

A foot or more of rain Sunday and overnight forced schools to shut down Monday in several north Georgia counties, including Gwinnett, Douglas, Paulding and Carroll counties in metro Atlanta.
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Flooding shut down the two right lanes of I-75 southbound just north of the Brookwood Interchange during Monday's morning commute.
Mike Morris, mmorris@ajc.com Flooding shut down the two right lanes of I-75 southbound just north of the Brookwood Interchange during Monday's morning commute.

* Rain causes major accidents, one fatality
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* See WSB traffic map

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Roads were closed by high water throughout the metro area, and in Douglas County, flooding washed out the main line of the Norfolk Southern railroad washed out near Villa Rica.

Emergency personnel in at least two metro counties were busy rescuing residents from high water before daybreak Monday.

While the flood warning was posted after midnight for Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, eastern Cobb, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, the worst flooding appeared to be in Douglas and Paulding counties, which had been under a flood warning since earlier in the evening.

There, National Weather Service radar estimated that as much as 15 inches of rain had fallen since Friday, much of it beginning on Sunday afternoon, when a series of strong storms began training, or following one another, northward through the area.

Those storms were still dumping rain across the western suburbs at 4 a.m.

The Weather Service said 3 to 7 inches had fallen just since 9 p.m. Sunday from Franklin in west Georgia through Carrollton and Douglasville to Dallas.

In addition to the flood warnings, a flood watch was in effect through Tuesday morning for all of north and central Georgia, as streams such as Sweetwater Creek in the western suburbs and Big Creek to the north continued to rise.

Other parts of the state were also hard hit by the heavy rain.

In the northwest corner, a flood warning was posted for Catoosa, Chattooga, Walker and Whitfield counties, where an estimated 4 to 8 inches of rain had fallen since 8 p.m. Sunday. Schools were open Monday in Whitfield County, but closed in the other three counties.

To the northeast, Stephens County schools were closed Monday and a state of emergency was declared as much of the county was without running water because of flooding.

Flash flood warnings were also issued before daybreak for Hall, Banks, Jackson and Barrow counties.

Several major roads were blocked by high water in Paulding County early Monday, authorities said. Among the roads closed were U.S. 278 and Ga. 92 in the Hiram area, Paulding County sheriff's spokesman Brandon Gurley said. He said more than 60 roads were closed countywide.

"We're still having problems all over the county, people stranded in homes and vehicles," Gurley said at 4:15 a.m. He said deputies were involved in "quite a few" rescues, but no injuries had been reported.

Power was also out in many areas of the county, including the major business district around U.S. 278 and Ga. 92, and a couple of convenience stores on Ga. 92 were reported flooded. The county courthouse was closed Monday due to the flooding.

Authorities in Douglas County also reported numerous rescues underway at 4:15, and power was out along Douglas Boulevard in the area of Arbor Place Mall.

Douglas County fire and sheriff's personnel were "on the scene of multiple car floodings and lower floors of house floodings," county spokesman Wes Tallon said. Crews were using boats to rescue residents from low-lying homes along Berea and Pool roads.

Tallon said that Post Road just south of I-20 was "completely washed out." He said that more than 40 other roads across the county were also closed or washed out by the flooding.

The westbound lanes of I-20 in Douglas County were shut down overnight, but had reopened by 4 a.m., according to the state Department of Transportation.

The county opened its Emergency Operations Center just before 1 a.m., Tallon said.

"The storm continues over the top of Douglas County and more rain is coming," Tallon said at 5:30 a.m.

"The storm runoff is going at speeds higher than a person can walk through," he said. " This is a dangerous situation and Douglas County residents are requested to stay home, if possible, until conditions improve. "

Just before 6 a.m., Douglas County officials issued a "boil water" advisory for the entire county "due to multiple line breaks in the system, particularly in road washout and bridge failure areas," Tallon said.

In Cobb County, flooding was reported in a subdivision off Oakdale Road at 7:30 a.m.

Cole Road in front of Gwinnett County's Parkview High School was flooded and portions of the pavement washed away, said Officer Brian Kelly, a spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Some of the worst problems at about 7:30 a.m. were in the Stone Mountain area on U.S. 78 from the DeKalb County line to Ross Road, Kelly said.

Five Forks Trickum Road from Rockbridge to Killian Hill was closed, he said.

"I don't know that we have areas particularly deep in water where cars are in danger, it's more just standing water," Kelly said. "It's pretty much widespread."

Other trouble areas include U.S. 29 near Rose Creek, Oakbrook Parkway and Indian Trail, he said.

All lanes of Lawrenceville Highway east of Bethesda School Road in Gwinnett were shut down after the pavement partially collapsed, according to state DOT spokesman Bryan Gunter.

A precinct on the county's southside had to call in officers from other areas for help responding to emergency calls, Kelly said.

Gwinnett County Public Schools shut down for the day after initially planning a 1 1/2 hour delay.

Sloan Roach, the school system's spokeswoman, said, with several roads closes around the county, other roads were getting jammed.

"That was going to make the buses very very late in making their pickups," she said. "And we didn't want children standing out in the rain for a long time."

In the Sandy Springs area, there were several trees down on wires in the area of Mount Vernon Highway and Powers Ferry Road.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said about 9,300 of the utility's metro Atlanta customers were without power at 5:30 a.m.

Kraft said that anyone encountering downed power lines should "treat them as if they were live and stay away from them."

The "Spaghetti Junction" interchange of I-285 and I-85 in DeKalb County was completely shut down by high water from before 7 a.m. until about 7:45. A few miles away, a mud slide blocked two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane on U.S. 78 at Hugh Howell Road.

All eastbound lanes of I-20 eastbound at Lee Road in Douglas County were closed by high water at 7:45, but were reopened shortly after 8 a.m.

In Marietta, downed utility lines blocked the southbound lanes of Cobb Parkway near White Circle.

The rain was expected to continue, heavy at times, throughout Monday and overnight into Tuesday, the Weather Service said.

The chance of rain is 100 percent on Monday, 70 percent Monday night and 60 percent Tuesday.

A little break could come on Wednesday, when the chance of rain drops to 40 percent, and the chance of rain is only 20 percent on Thursday, forecasters said.

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