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Flood of 1994: July 10 - No quick crest for the Flint River

Water pouring over the Lake Blackshear dam ensured the flood waters would stay high for a while in Albany, while some Lee County residents were getting first looks at the homes they had to evacuate.

Flood water swamp downtown Newton on July 10, 1994. (Albany Herald file photo)

Flood water swamp downtown Newton on July 10, 1994. (Albany Herald file photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an installment of a series of articles on the Flood of 1994 from reports published in The Albany Herald.

ALBANY — The toll from the Flood of ‘94 rose on July 10 after two more bodies were recovered from the waters that besieged Albany. One — 2-year-old Shabazz Mallory — was found in the Flint River, the other, an unidentified man, was found in a flood neighborhood in central Albany.

Shabazz had been presumed dead since his 4-year-old brother and he were lost July 7 when their father’s car was swept off the Liberty Expressway and into the raging river. The father and four other adults in the car survived. The body of Kason, 4, had been recovered July 8.

There was no immediate word on the man’s death and identity.

The Flint was reported at 42 feet, which authorities think happened that Sunday night. But like everything else about this flood, little was normal — even the cresting. Rather than reach its maximum and then begin subsiding, the Flint was likely to keep its height for a period of time.

“What we expect is not a real quick peak, but a plateau,” interim Albany City Engineer Bruce Maples said.

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This child’s tricycle caught in a tree indicates the flood depth experienced from the Kinchafoonee Creek at Rain Tree Apartments off U.S. Highway 19 in south Lee County. (Albany Herald file photo)

The reason was 35 miles upstream, where the Flint had overwhelmed the dam at Lake Blackshear.

And that meant problems for areas of Albany that ordinarily never flooded would continue. The overwhelmed underground drainage system was backing up, sending water up from drains and into those neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods a mile away from the river were being evacuated.

And while there was a great deal of cooperation and looking out for each other going on, not everyone was on good behavior. There were reports of thieves in boats looting abandoned homes.

Also, a quarter of one Albany home was lost to a sinkhole over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the first Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance center prepared to open in Albany.

Just north of Albany, Lee County residents were beginning to return to — and assess — the homes that they had evacuated. Lee County Commission Chair John leach estimated that up 1,500 Lee County homes sustained damage from the flood waters.

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A tree and a power pole hold what was a riverside restaurant in Newton, which has been listed from its foundation by flood waters, on July 10, 1994. (Albany Herald file photo)

Unlike others Southwest Georgia areas hit by the flood, Lee County residents weren’t flocking to shelters. “I don’t know where they are going,” Leach said, “but they aren’t going in shelters. We set up a shelter, but we shut it down because no one came.”

While the worst was over for Lee — there was still water in many of the homes that were being checked, but the Muckalee and Kinchafoonee creeks were receding — Baconton in northern Mitchell County was finding things were too dry. The small community escaped most of the flood waters, but was missing two vital things — drinking water and information.

That was not going to be the case in Newton, where the downtown was 10 feet deep in water that was expected to rise another 6 feet by Tuesday the 12th.

Water was off, as was electricity in most of the town. The Highway 37 bridge that connects Newton to Camilla was shutdown to all traffic except emergency vehicles over concerns the high, fast water could undermine it. There was also danger from a riverside structure, River Trace Restaurant, that was torn from its foundation by the flood water. The building was entangled in trees, the only thing keeping it from slamming into the bridge.

Baker County Commission Chairman Mike Tabb said local officials were considering asking Fort Benning near Columbus about the possibility of a demolition team destroying the former restaurant to keep it from wrecking the bridge.

The lack of water and power in Newton and other parts of Baker County forced some evacuees to be taken to a shelter at Camilla First baptist Church, nine miles from Newton, because the Baker County shelter at Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church was without power and had inadequate sanitary conditions.