The Flood of 1994: July 12 - Phase 2 of recovery begins in Albany

Sen. Sam Nunn and Pentagon officials visit Albany July 12, a day ahead of the president

Personnel with the Nation Guard’s 48th Brigade load up leftover sandbags July 12, 2014, at Albany Civic Center to take them where they are needed. (Albany Herald file photo)

Personnel with the Nation Guard’s 48th Brigade load up leftover sandbags July 12, 2014, at Albany Civic Center to take them where they are needed. (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 president was coming to Albany and Southwest Georgia.

President Bill Clinton, along with Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, were coming to Albany on July 13, landing Air Force One at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, then taking to the skies in helicopters for an aerial tour of the city where 23 square miles was under water.

Today, the 12th, U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and Pentagon officials were in Albany to assess the situation.

“We never thought we’s see anything like this,” Nunn said at a news conference, “and we hope and pray we’ll never see anything like it again.”

Nunn noted that cooperation from all groups had gone extremely well. “We are here to ensure that continues,” the senator said.

Locally, officials said they were beginning the second phase of the recovery.

“We are starting to make plans for the transition to moving residents back into flooded areas,” Dougherty County Administrator Alan Reddish said. “At the same time, we are concerned that when the transition begins that we not create another disaster.”

For those displaced from their homes — and there were 22,800 of them in Albany and Dougherty County — the stress of the disaster was starting to catch up with them, especially those who went to shelters. Flood victims said they didn’t think spending a few weeks away from home would be a big deal at first, but after nearly a week in shelters, they were longing for anything that resembled normal life.

“I could be at home in my bed watching TV and listening to the radio,” said Stacy Brown, 15. “I have my own room at home.”

Instead, she was sharing a shelter with 700 others for a fifth straight day at Albany High School.

North of Albany, residents of Lee and Sumter counties were getting their first good looks at the aftermath of the flood. The sight wasn’t pretty. Of several hundred Lee County homes that were flooded, only about five dozen were accessible by today and many were still under water.

“The exteriors of these houses look terrible because they’re covered in mud,” said Lyle Mathis, a dispatcher with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “But it’s the interiors that need to be completely renovated.

“The sheetrock just crumbled in most of those houses, so you’re looking at bare walls and wiring. They look like they’re still under construction.”

Farmland was also taking a major hit. Georgia farm groups said a preliminary damage estimate of $25 million by the federal government would be low once everything was assessed.

One bright spot for East Albany — mail service, which hadn’t been available since July 7, resumed.

In Bainbridge, residents were starting to see some hope that things wouldn’t be as dire as predicted. The Flint River was at 36 feet, far below the projected crest of 45 feet that was expected Thursday the 14th.