This infrared image of the storm shows the most active areas. The storm system stretched from Canada to the Gulf Coast. (National Weather Service graphic)
ALBANY — Dougherty County and other parts of southwest Georgia experienced some severe weather Tuesday with a chance of more to come — at least through tonight, said Jim Vaught, deputy director of Albany-Dougherty Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday.
While weather can quickly change, Vaught said the National Weather Service in Tallahassee had placed Albany in a “low risk” category of 30 percent for tornadoes, overall flooding or other severe weather, until Wednesday evening. The area had previously been rated at 15 percent risk, Vaught said.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood advisory for Southwest Georgia, including Albany, until 8 p.m. today. Forecasters say a second round of storms were expected late Tuesday night and today, with at least 2 inches of rain likely. In places where thunderstorms hit, the rain accumulation could reach 8 inches by tonight.
During the day Tuesday, winds had been as high as 29 mph with gusts up to 40 mph before settling down late in the afternoon to around 7 mph. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, the official rain gauge at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport had registered 0.66 inches of precipitation.
The good news, Vaught said, is that even though some low-lying areas such as Radium Springs subdivision in south Albany will routinely experience some flooding during periods of high rainfall, the Flint River is “nowhere near” flood stage and is not expected to be a problem.
Vaught said the Flint measured just 7.4 feet at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday and is expected to crest at 14.6 feet Sunday. Flood stage for the Flint River is 26 feet, Vaught said.
According to Vaught, the risk of sudden tornadoes — such as the ones which devastated parts of Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama late Monday — is relatively small.
“Most of the tornadoes are to the northwest of us,” Vaught said, “our risk is more to do with flash flooding.”
Until the system has passed through, Vaught said, residents should be aware of how saturated the ground has become. Especially combined with high winds, Vaught said, trees can change position or even fall unexpectedly, creating hazards and inconvenience.
“Even healthy trees can fall in these conditions,” Vaught said. “Residents should consider having limbs or trees removed professionally if by falling they would interfere with power lines or damage your roof. Yes, it costs a little money, but it could be well worth the price.”
Vaught also had some advice for drivers who encounter standing water:
“Don’t drown. Go around.” Vaught said. “It doesn’t take much water to hydroplane or stall you car.”
Georgia Power issued a statement Tuesday that rain and high winds caused more than 75,000 total outages around the state. Lorie Farkas, the Albany Water Gas & Light Commission assistant general manager of customer relations and marketing, said Tuesday afternoon that WG&L crews would be working around the clock to restore service to some 8,000 local residents.
“Our typical restoration time has been just one or two hours,” Farkas said. “We just have keep that pioneer spirit and thank our lucky stars we weren’t a part of that devastation in Alabama or Arkansas, where 28 people died.”
Four families living at Windsor Apartments, 2030 W. Broad Ave., could have used more luck on Tuesday morning when lighting “bounced” from a nearby pine tree and ignited the roof of their building. Matthew Jefferson with the Albany Fire Department said he’d never seen anything like it.
“When it struck, it knocked the bark off and threw it for 15 or 20 yards,” Jefferson said. “In the process it veered off to the roof of the apartment building.”
Jefferson said four separate apartments were damaged and made unlivable by fire, smoke and water used to quench the fire. The local chapter of the American Red Cross was notified in case any of the families need a temporary place to stay, Jefferson said.