The Heat Is Online

Southeastern US Pounded by 100-Year Downpours

Toddler among 6 killed as storms pound Southeast

 

The Associated Press, Sept . 21, 2009

ATLANTA - A two-year-old Georgia boy swept from his father's arms Monday was among six people killed by storms pounding the Southeast, and more rain was expected after the historic dumping that also forced drivers to scramble onto the roofs of cars on Atlanta's main artery.

 

The boy, Slade Crawford, was found downstream of his family's ruined mobile home, which was split apart around 2 a.m. by a surging creek, said Ed Baskin, deputy coroner in Carroll County. The parents had been rescued as another son, age 1, clung to his mother's arms in the county southwest of Atlanta.

 

"By the time we got into our vehicle, they were screaming at the back of our house," said Pat Crawford, the boy's grandmother, who watched as the family's mobile home was whisked away. "We could see them, but the current was so bad, we couldn't get to them."

 

The storms were blamed for four other deaths in Georgia and one in Alabama. A Tennessee man also disappeared after he went swimming in an overflowing ditch on a dare, and officials in north Georgia's Chattooga County say a 15-year-old boy is also missing.

 

Forecasters issued flood alerts for parts of Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia, where the ground had been saturated by days of storms.

Authorities warned Georgia drivers to stay home as another round of storms approached from the west. One of

Atlanta's busiest highways ground to a halt when water rose to cars' hoods during the afternoon commute, and some drivers climbed onto the vehicles' roofs to wait out the storm. Traffic picked back up after the water subsided on the highway that cuts through the heart of the city.

 

To the northwest, crews in the tiny Georgia town of Trion worked furiously to shore up a levee breached by the Chattooga River and in danger of failing. The town evacuated more than 1,500 residents, and Red Cross workers quickly set up an emergency shelter nearby.

 

"It's a grave situation for us," said Lamar Canada, Chattooga County's emergency management director.

Many parts of North Georgia have gotten "historic" amounts of rain well in excess of so called 100-year predictions, which describe a storm with the likelihood of happening once every century, said state climatologist David Stooksbury. The downpours come just months after parts of the state emerged from an epic drought that plagued the region for about two years.

 

The storm system that has been hovering over the region for the last week could dump another four inches on north Georgia overnight Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Frank Taylor. Rains were expected to taper off starting Wednesday.

 

In Tennessee, rescuers searched for a Chattanooga man swept into a culvert Sunday after boasting that he could swim across a flooded ditch alongside his house for $5. The man's nephew identified him as 46-year-old Sylvester Kitchens.

 

Firefighters rescued another man who also tried to swim the ditch. Albert Miller was found clinging to a fence in the water near where the water empties into the culvert, said Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner. Miller was taken to the hospital with symptoms of hypothermia.

 

The nephew, 22-year-old Leslie Townsend, said Kitchens was swept away when he tried to grab onto a garden hose that Townsend threw to him.

 

Emergency workers in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville found a woman dead in her vehicle after it was swept off a road by flooding Monday, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services. The woman was identified as Seydi Burciaga, 39, who was returning home from work.

 

West of Atlanta, Douglas County authorities reported three deaths after the area was hit by as much as a foot of rain. A man's body was found after his car was swept into a creek, while a woman's body was found elsewhere after the road she was driving was washed out, said county spokesman Wes Tallon. He said another woman's body was found hours later.

 

He said emergency officials have rescued dozens of people stranded in their homes and cars.

 

"We're using everything we can get our hands on," Tallon said. "Everything from boats to Jet Skis to ropes to ladders."

 

"I've never seen rain like this before — even when a hurricane came through in '04," said Elizabeth King, who lives in next-door Carroll County, adding that a neighbor had water rushing through the yard. "I've never seen anything like this before and I've lived here my whole life — 35 years."

 

Sheriff Todd Entrekin of Etowah County, Ala., said a dive team recovered the body of James Dale Leigh, 22, of the Sand Valley community, from a pond where he drowned. Witnesses said he was walking on the pond's rain-soaked bank Monday when it collapsed beneath him.

 

In Kentucky, rescue crews went on more than a dozen runs to help stranded people after 4 inches of rain fell on parts of Louisville Sunday, said Louisville fire department spokesman Sgt. Salvador Melendez.

 

Water rose as high as window-level on some houses in North Carolina's Polk County, forcing emergency officials to evacuate homes along a seven-mile stretch of road. Flooding in more than 20 counties in western North Carolina closed roads, delayed school and forced

evacuations.

 

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