Days of rain swell the Chattahoochee; chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comApril 7, 2014 

About 5 inches of rain Sunday and Monday caused minor flooding and inconvenience in the Columbus area as creeks feeding the Chattahoochee River began to back up and the river spilled over its normal banks.

More than 2.5 inches fell in Columbus between 7 a.m. and noon Monday, causing the Georgia Power Co. to open four floodgates on the Lake Oliver Dam.

Around 1 p.m. Monday Georgia Power officials began opening additional floodgates and alerting city officials on both sides of the river of a “high-water event.”

Arnold Lindsay, Georgia Power’s plant manager for Chattahoochee Hydro, said a high-water event is “when the river is in what we call out-of-its-banks conditions.”

“The main thing right now is all the local rain,” Lindsay said.

With four gates open, about 46,000 cubic feet per second were moving over the dam, Lindsay said. The normal low flow from Lake Oliver on the Chattahoochee is 800 cfs. The optimal release for the Chattahoochee River whitewater course is about 10,000 cfs, and that occurs most afternoons when Georgia Power is generating electricity.

Obviously, the river began to rise in downtown Columbus, putting the Chattahoochee RiverWalk under water.

The river was at 16.5 feet at 1 p.m. and was about 19 feet at 3 p.m., according to a gauge at 14th Street. By 9 p.m. it was near 24 feet.

"The Chattahoochee River is not actually flooded even though the river walk in Columbus is covered with water; and more or less designed this way," said WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald. "It’s actually above 20 feet, which causes this to be at action stage but flood stage isn’t reached until it’s 34 feet.

Jeswald said he expected to see the river recede sometime Tuesday afternoon.

The rain impacted the creeks that feed into the river.

Mill Creek runs out of north Phenix City, merges with Holland Creek and dumps into the Chattahoochee River just north of the Phenix City Amphitheater. Cochgalechee Creek runs through South Phenix City and dumps into the Chattahoochee below the Phenix City sewage treatment facility.

Phenix City closed Opelika Road for about four hours Monday afternoon because a bridge over Mill Creek was under water, Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith said.

“All of these creeks can flow until the river gets to 15 or 16 feet,” Smith said. “When the river reaches 17 feet, the flow on the creeks just stop. They have nowhere to go.”

That created some flooding along Mimosa Road near the Phenix City city limits in Lee County. It also created some flooding in Crowell Park subdivision, a south Phenix City area that historically floods, Smith said.

Columbus Public Works Director Pat Biegler said the city received a total of 60 calls concerning flooding Monday, “but a lot of those were just flooded streets or yards, not major blockages.”

Biegler said that as of 4:30 p.m., the city had gotten by on regular staffing levels, so no overtime was involved.

“But that could change tonight,” she said.

Jeswald said Monday there was some rain in the forecast for this evening.

“We have one last shot, but it is not going to be anything like what we had today,” Jeswald said Monday. “It should rain and be out of here.”

Reporters Tony Adams and Mike Owen contributed to this report.

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