Heavy rains flood parts of RiverWalk

benw@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 12, 2013 

A weather system that dumped 4 inches of rain on Columbus since Sunday has swelled creeks, streams and flooded sections of the Chattahoochee RiverWalk.

By the time rain moves out today, the system could leave up to 6 inches of rainfall in the area, said Bob Jeswald, chief meteorologist for WRBL News 3.

"This is all coming from a system that stalled out," he said.

Swollen creeks and streams flowing into the Chattahoochee have increased water levels along the river. Under normal conditions, the minimum flow is 800 cubic feet per second, but recent rains have increased that to 40 times the normal flow, said Arnold Lindsay, plant manager at Chattahoochee Hydro.

The current flow is running between 32,000 and 34,000 cubic feet per second, Lindsay said.

Flow on the river hasn't reached flood stage but isn't far from it. Much of the flow is regulated from inflows from West Point and around LaGrange.

"The river is a lot higher than it usually is," Lindsay said. "We would consider a flood situation if we got past 38,000 cubic feet per second, but we ain't there yet."

With up to 2 more inches of rain possible, Public Services Director Pat Biegler said her staff is concerned about toppling trees in a rain-soaked area, especially if there are strong winds.

"You can't tell where you will have trees down, but we think there will be some if the rain continues and if we get any winds at all," she said.

Alex Gibbs, a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, said winds gusting at 30 to 40 mph are possible today.

Biegler said the city has taken more than 30 calls since Monday related to weather. Crews will be on standby to take calls on flooded streets and clogged drains in low-lying areas.

"Our concern is that if the river stays high, we are getting a lot of water from up stream then our creeks are already trying to enter a high river," she said. "There is absolutely very little we can do about that."

Additional rain means more flooding potential for some areas, Jeswald said. Areas with creeks near Reese Road, north Columbus and Mulberry Creek could see higher water levels. "They are easily going to fill pretty high," he said.

Some areas southeast of Columbus, like Lumpkin, could get 3 more inches of rain. The frequent rains offer some temporary relief but won't wipe out drought conditions in the region, Jeswald said. Columbus is about 2.5 inches above normal for the year and 2 inches up for the month.

"If you look at the 10-year period, we are 100 inches below average," Jeswald said of area drought conditions. "A lot of this is wasted rain. It's got to be contained. It's a good temporary relief."

-- Staff writer Tiffany Stevens contributed to this report.

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