Tuesday, September 22, 2009


What an epic storm! After getting soaked last week in Colfax, Louisiana, and having my flight back home delayed by an hour due to weather, the clouds apparently followed me back to Atlanta. It rained here all of last week and throughout the weekend, and then two weather systems -- one from the west and the other from the east -- combined in a "perfect storm" scenario to climax the event.

The persistent low-pressure system that had been centered over the lower Mississippi River valley for much of last week and that soaked me while I was in Colfax began to weaken as it lifted to the north and northeast over the weekend. However, the system provided a steady flow of deep Gulf moisture across the rest of the Southeast. A second element, a high-pressure system along the eastern seaboard, provided additional Atlantic moisture that bolstered the Gulf moisture. These two systems met early Monday morning and, aided by several upper-level impulses, woke me up with loud, dramatic thunderstorms and persistent heavy rain at about 4:00 am Monday.

And once started, it just didn't want to stop. As much as 20 inches of rain eventually fell over three days in the Atlanta area. In just an 8-day period alone, 11.23 inches were recorded at the airport.

11.97 inches of rain were measured at the Peachtree Creek gauge near my house and the creek crested yesterday at 23.89 feet. The flood stage is at 13 feet and anything above 20 feet is considered a major flood. The crest was the second-highest on record, surpassed only by the crest of 25.8 feet in 1919. The floodwaters closed Collier Road, my major route to just about anywhere, and trees had fallen across other roads, bringing down power lines and further limiting travel options. I had to snake my way through back roads and residential streets to get to the zendo last night and to work this morning.

The Chattahoochee River crested at 28.1 feet overnight near Vinings (home of Canoe Restaurant), closing the western part of I-285, Atlanta's perimeter highway, for over 24 hours (it just re-opened a short time ago). The river is expected to recede slowly and finally fall below flood stage (20 feet) on Wednesday. The crest was just short of the record, 29 feet, set in 1919.

With all of this flooding of rivers and falling of trees, 11,300 people were without power in metro Atlanta, including myself. Power was out when I got home from work yesterday and when I got back from the zendo last night. It was still out when I got up this morning and I had to shave and shower in the early morning darkness. Power was finally restored by the time I got home this evening (as well as my internet connection!), but Georgia Power Company reported a while ago that 1,200 homes were still without electricity, mostly in low-lying areas near the Chattahoochee hit hardest by the flooding. Crews can't repair damaged power lines in those neighborhoods until the floodwater recedes.

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