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The Flood of 1994: July 5 - Trouble on the horizon

By the end of the day July 5, 1994, officials knew record flood water would hit Albany

This photo, showing damage to a roadway, was taken on Georgia Highway 49, about 10 miles from Americus during the Flood of 1994. (Albany Herald file photo)

This photo, showing damage to a roadway, was taken on Georgia Highway 49, about 10 miles from Americus during the Flood of 1994. (Albany Herald file photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a series of articles based in accounts of the Flood of 1994 from stories published in The Albany Herald.

ALBANY — The first warning that many in south Georgia had in 1994 that the remnants of the first tropicla storm of the season, Alberto, would soon make that a name of infamy came as the area found most of its Independence Day holiday activities, including Albany’s annual fireworks show, scuttled because of the downpours.

You can see our special Flood of '94 section "Rising Above the Waters" here.

Eight and a half inches of rain were dumped in Cuthbert on that Monday, causing some street flooding, including parts of U.S. Highway 82. There were no injuries reported, but two families in the community were evacuated.

Weather forecasters said the local rains were expected to taper as the remains of Alberto moved north, noting that Albany, which got about 2 inches of rain (some isolated spots got 3-5 inches), was spared from the heavier totals because it was situated between two feeder bands of moisture.

Forecasters said flooding of the Flint River wasn’t likely, but the Kinchafoonee Creek was expected to crest above its flood stage by July 8.

Meanwhile, Albany city officials were expecting to announce a rescheduling for the washed-out Independence Day fireworks show.

On July 5, 1994, Albany got another 2 inches of rain, with Wednesday’s forecast calling for much of the same. The latest prediction had the Kinchafoonee Creek at Century Bridge in south Lee County reaching 17 feet by Friday (the 8th), 4 feet above flood stage. Now, officials said, some creekside home would be at risk.

And it was clear that with the slow moving rain system pumping water into the Flint River in north and middle Georgia, Albany was in line for flooding. On the morning of the 5th, National Weather Service forecasters predicted a 31-foot crest, enough to flood Front Street downtown, cottages along Lake Chehaw and Whiitney Avenue.

By that afternoon, the estimates changed — and not for the better. The National Weather Service was predicting a record flood for Albany, saying the river now was expected to crest at the Oglethorpe Bridge at 36-37 feet on July 11, eclipsing the 34.7-foot mark the Flint reached in 1966.

In Lee County, three mobile homes off Cypress Point Road were being moved because of the flooding threat. One mobile home owner, Barbra Davidson, was out of town when she got the news and was moving her mobile home to her mother’s property Baconton until she could find a new location in Lee County.

“I knew there was a possibility to flood,” she said, “but this was the only place I had to put it.”

Just above those affected lots, Jean Sanders and a neighbor were bailing water from a portable pool she had just put up for her grandchildren, fearing it could wash away. She noted that two or three years earlier, water had risen to the floor of her mobile home, forcing her to turn the power off and stay in a motel for a few weeks.

But this would be a flood the likes of which had never been seen before. Nobody really knew just how bad things were going to get, particularly in Sumter County, before the run rose again.

TOMORROW: July 6, 1994.