Ernie Mosely carries George, the pet hamster of Teresa Brogdon, right, as they wade through the parking lot of the Rain Tree Apartment complex flooded by rising water from the nearby Kinchafoonee Creek on July 8, 1994. Also pictured are Doug Judy, far left, and Linda Kidd, far right. (Albany Herald file photo)
ALBANY — The fireworks of Independence Day will bring other memories to many this year. July marks the 20th anniversary of the Flood of 1994, the worst disaster to ever hit Southwest Georgia.
Two decades ago, a tropical rainstorm gathered force as it barreled toward the Florida panhandle. Never reaching hurricane strength, it was briefly a named storm — the first of the 1994 hurricane season.
Tropical Storm Alberto.
For those who endured the disaster, it’s a name that still brings out emotions. The slow moving system made landfall on July 3, stalled near Atlanta three days later, then backtracked over part of its northern path as it moved into central Alabama and dissipated. But that did not happen before it dropped copious amounts of rainfall — at least 8 inches in many places and more then 27 in Americus — on already saturated soil.
Creeks and tributaries swelled out of their banks and the Flint River broke nearly seven-decade-old flooding records. Flood waters were estimated to have covered an area of Georgia roughly equivalent to the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island — combined.
By the time the waters crested several days later, there were 31 deaths associated with the storm, with about half of those coming in Sumter County where 21 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period July 5-6. In Southwest Georgia, Albany and Dougherty County were cut in half with all east-west bridges crossing the Flint River rendered impassable. Downstream, Newton, the county seat of Baker County, was devastated.
It was a time when friends and strangers came together to battle an irresistible force of nature.
The stories and events of the Flood of 1994 will be recalled Saturday in a special 24-page section that will wrap around the regular newspaper. It will be filled with recollections of the time, along with photos from the flood, while also noting the many changes that have occurred in Albany and Southwest Georgia since 1994.
The collection of articles and photos will be supplemented with a special online section at www.albanyherald.com. That will include special photo galleries from 1994 photographs. Many of the photos haven’t been seen in the two decades since the ‘94 flood.