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Thronateeska Heritage Center opens Flood of 1994 exhibit

Exhibit opening marks anniversary of Flint River crest at 43 feet in Albany in 1994

A sandbag filling station is among the displays at the Thronateeska Heritage Center exhibit marking the anniversary of the Flood of 1994, which will be open through Sept. 15. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

A sandbag filling station is among the displays at the Thronateeska Heritage Center exhibit marking the anniversary of the Flood of 1994, which will be open through Sept. 15. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

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One of the Albany-Dougherty Rescue Team boats used during the Flood of 1994 sits on display at the Thronateeska Heritage Center exhibit marking the anniversary of the natural disaster. The exhibit will be open through September. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — Twenty years ago Friday, the Flint River crested at 43 feet in Albany during what is considered to be the greatest natural disaster to hit Southwest Georgia.

To commemorate that event on the exact date, Thronateeska Heritage Center officially opened its exhibit marking the Flood of 1994’s 20th anniversary with a ribb0n-cutting on Friday — reflecting on the impact of the disaster and what was learned from it.

Just before the ribbon was cut, Tommy Gregors, executive director at Thronateeska, remarked on how the community comes together in times of distress, such as during the flood, and how the exhibit is meant to celebrate that as well as preserve the memory of the flood while also acknowledging those who worked on the relief efforts.

“Even though it was a tragedy, a lot of good things came out of it (the flood),” said Gregors.

The 20th anniversary exhibit tells the story in several media, including poster-sized photographs and videos of newscasts from the flood. It includes a PowerPoint that shows the demographics of the flood, including maps illustrating how and when the flood waters expanded into different parts of Albany.

One display tracks the path of Tropical Storm Alberto from the storm’s formation in the Atlantic Ocean through its path in the Gulf of Mexico and onto shore, before eventually moving into Georgia and dissipating over Alabama. There is also information discussing the anatomy of a hurricane, how a person can prepare for disaster and what officials learned as far as what resources are needed to handle such an event.

Also, a “Flood of Memories” wall has been encouraging those who endured the flood to share photos and memories, making their stories part of the exhibit.

“We would like the exhibit to share the resilience (of the community during the flood),” said Teresa Smith, archivist and collections manager for the Thronateeska Heritage Foundation.

Center officials already have heard from many flood survivors through their social media efforts, and people have been sharing pictures, stories and items to display. They are asking how they can participate in the exhibit, and video interviews are being conducted with some of the residents who were in the region 20 years ago.

The museum is also getting excellent cooperation from area government agencies, such as Public Works, that were involved in aspects of dealing with the flood, Smith said.

“We’ve had several inquiries on how folks can participate,” she said. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from folks who are still here, and left and relocated.”

” … As the staff and I prepared the exhibit, there were a lot of mixed feelings. There were testimonies of those who told their stories … We do have something to celebrate; we did come through. It was catastrophic, but we did come through.”

What Smith said she learned from working on the exhibit was how off guard people were taken, which partly inspired the segment of the exhibit educating people about weather disasters.

“It gives a definition of what to expect, how to be prepared and how to be involved,” she said. “That’s what I learned … that a lot of things were assumed. A lot of them (the area’s residents) didn’t have as much assistance, especially in the Radium Springs area.”

The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday up until Sept. 15. Thronateeska is located at 100 W. Roosevelt Ave.