Sunday December 3rd, 2023 12:24AM

Habersham County, cities continue to deal with aftermath of flooding

10 p.m. update

 

Municipalities across Habersham County continue to clean up and evaluate after near-record rainfall received from the remnants of Hurricane Delta.

In Demorest, a Boil Water Advisory remains in effect until further notice for all customers of the Demorest Water System countywide.

“When we have a system that is as large as ours, there were a lot of people that were impacted,” said Demorest Mayor Rick Austin. “When you add to the fact that you’ve got a number of people that live in subdivisions that have roads that have washed out – that includes water mains that have been washed out as well, so we’re trying to address them as rapidly as we can.”

Austin said the unprecedented volume of rain created problems for both the water and sewer operations of the city.

“I don’t think anybody saw this amount of rain coming,” said Demorest Mayor Rick Austin. “This is, in all honesty, a once or twice in a century event that we’ve had to deal with. It’s impacted our water and our sewer operations in a number of different areas. We have addressed those challenges. There are still more challenges that need to be addressed, but at this point in time all water leaks have been identified and most of them have been stopped at this point.”

Still, some areas cannot be assessed until water recedes enough for closer evaluation. One example involved sewer infrastructure.

“We still have multiple sewer crossings that cross creeks and rivers that we’re still waiting for the water to recede so that we can address those,” Austin said. “Our sewer plant operations are now back up and running appropriately. At one point in time early this morning, there was at least one part of our sewer plant that was under six feet of water. So, we’re very fortunate that water receded, and we were able to get that portion back up and running and operational.”

In addition to water and sewer infrastructure, the city’s curved retaining wall along the southbound lane of Central Avenue (Business 441) through the center of town experienced partial failure, filling the downtown area with mud and debris.

“The retaining wall on 441, as you proceed south on 441, has got significant structural damage to it,” Austin said. “That structural damage is going to have to be assessed and addressed, and I assume that’s going to happen sometime in the next day or two as we try to figure out who in fact is responsible for it. I’m hopeful that the Department of Transportation is going to partner with us as we assess that and then figure out what the appropriate solution is going to be.”

The sidewalk along the hill between the Demorest Baptist Church parking lot and Demorest City Hall was damaged or destroyed as a result of the retaining wall failure, according to Austin.

In addition, the mailbox portion of Demorest Post Office flooded and still had standing water late Sunday afternoon.

Demorest Fire Department personnel spent much of the afternoon cleaning up the downtown area to make it safer for traffic.

 

Cornelia downtown streets affected by flooding

In Cornelia, the Wells Street railroad underpass remained closed due to erosion of a bank beside the structure, known for many years as its tribute to “Tim Loves Tink”. Similarly, adjacent Irvin Street remains closed between Wells Street and Level Grove Road due to a compromised power pole with several transformers near the creek.

 

Clarkesville police chief: 'Stay out of Pitts Park'

After experiencing repeated problems with people, even those with young children, entering the swift water flow in flooded Pitts Park, Clarkesville Police Chief Brad Barrett decided Sunday afternoon it was necessary to close the park to all vehicle and foot traffic.

“We’ve put up police tape and urge people to stay out of the park for their own protection,” Barrett said. “There is electricity in the park that now is covered by water, and we don’t know what’s in that water, so you could be endangering your own health and safety by being there.”

Barrett said he understands people like to see the flooding and take pictures or videos but pointed out those images can be found readily online.

Barrett said while he would hate to have to do so, anyone found in the park while it is flooded or roped off will be prosecuted because the safety measures are in place for the public’s protection.

Even as Clarkesville police were closing the park and dealing with those who did not want to leave the area, U.S. Geological Survey crews were on the adjacent bridge over the Soque River on Ga. 197 determining water flow.

USGS personnel told officials one river flow reading late in the afternoon was 4,800 cubic feet per second, far more than enough to sweep away anyone in its path. Earlier in the afternoon, USGS personnel said the flow was much higher.

Pitts Park will remain closed until further notice to allow the water to recede and crews to assess and repair damage, as well as sanitize surfaces.

 

Baldwin spared major incidents

In Baldwin, city crews dealt with the flooded railroad underpass on Airport Road.

Otherwise, there was not a lot of weather-related activity in the city, said Interim Police Chief Matthew Nall.

 

2 p.m. update

As more bands of showers continue to soak Habersham County during the afternoon, flooding conditions are likely to worsen.

“We’ve got more rain coming in, so we’re probably going to have additional flooding,” said Habersham County Emergency Management Agency Director Lynn Smith. “The river is not going down – it’s still going up. And they’ve opened up some of the [dam] gates up in Rabun County, so that water is coming downhill, too.”

Smith said no new rescue requests have been received, adding that several single-entrance subdivisions still have residents behind large washouts, leaving them without a way to get out.

Smith said Georgia Department of Transportation officials have been requested to assist Habersham County with evaluating some of the affected roads.

“I’ve got probably six roads right now that we have people behind that we can’t get to, but they’re going to look at those roads first then we’re going to go from there.”

WDUN Staff Meteorologist John Wetherbee said showers should taper off for the area by about 9 p.m., but that leaves several more hours of rainfall that could worsen conditions again.

“We’re just asking people to stay home if they don’t have to be out so that we don’t have to worry about the wrecks and that sort of thing,” Smith said.

 

1 p.m. update

Looking over rushing floodwaters at Pitts Park along the Soque River, Clarkesville City Councilman Franklin Brown said water there is the highest he has seen in his 40 years in the city, covering virtually all structures in the park itself and reaching half way up the public restrooms building and still rising.

“Pitts Park on occasion floods and we just spent a good bit of money cleaning it up,” Brown said. “Now, we’ll do it again.”

Brown said Clarkesville Fire Department on East Water Street at Adams Street also flooded overnight.

“They had about 12 to 18 inches of water in there,” Brown said. “We’ve got ServPro down there now cleaning up.”

Brown was out surveying the situation around the city.

Sunday afternoon, Clarkesville City Manager Keith Dickerson was inspecting the water damage at the fire station and to nearby storm drains that could not handle the intense overnight rainfall.

 

10 a.m. update

As heavy rains continue in Habersham County just before 10 a.m. Sunday, rescues of flood victims are continuing.

“We have multiple roads washed out, and still calls popping up of more,” said Habersham County Emergency Services Director Chad Black. “Seven, eight or nine roads or more are completely impassable. We’ve got subdivisions that people are trapped in."

Clarkesville received 6.21 inches of rain, placing the Soque and Chattahoochee rivers at near record stages.

A section of Ga. 365/U.S. 441 near Cody Road had to be shut down overnight due to several feet of water over the road.

Emergency personnel from Habersham County and Clarkesville rescued a number of people from high water at a mobile home park on Ga. 197 South overnight.

People in several single-access subdivisions now are stranded behind road washouts.

"Between the road department and the cities, county and emergency services, they’re stretched to the max right now," Black said.

Black said emergency responses in Habersham County and its cities continue.

“They’re just prioritizing the rescues right now,” Black said.

In all, about two dozen people had to be rescued overnight.

Black asks people to stay home and off the roads to avoid impeding emergency services personnel.

“The big thing if people – I know they really want to get out and go see – but please just stay off the roads and let our personnel work,” Black said. “All that does is hamper us when people get out trying to come watch.”

Editor's note: An earlier report indicated Habersham County officials had requested help from National Guard troops, but AccessWDUN has learned that information was premature.

 

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  • Associated Tags: Clarkesville Fire Department, flooding, clarkesville, Habersham County , Habersham, Habersham County Emergency Services, Director Chad Black, Habersham Emergency Management Agency, Director Lynn Smith, Pitts Park, Hurricane Delta, Councilman Franklin Brown
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