Georgia flooding takes at least 6 lives; more rain falling

Atlanta firefighter Stephen Webb carries a dog to safety Monday at the Peachtree Park Apartments.
With at least six people dead and large swaths of land, roads and homes under water, Georgia’s governor declared a state of emergency Monday in the 17 counties hardest hit by flooding.

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s announcement followed three deaths in north Georgia’s Douglas County, one death in Gwinnett County and another in Carroll County, where a 2-year-old child was ripped from her father’s arms by fierce floodwaters while he struggled to hold on to bushes, officials said. CNN affiliate WSB later confirmed a fourth death in Douglas County. Those counties, near Atlanta, were among the 17 included in the state-of-emergency declaration. Early Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service had a flash-flood warning for counties along the Interstate 20 corridor east of the Atlanta area almost to the South Carolina border. Additionally, several counties south of Macon, in central Georgia, were under a flash-flood warning. Much of the rest of central and northern Georgia remained under either flash-flood or flood watches. See photos of flooding Widely scattered showers were forecast for early Tuesday, with some areas expected to get up to a quarter-inch of rain an hour, falling on already saturated ground. Three missing children in Douglas County, west of Atlanta, were found, but their mother was one of the flood’s fatalities, said Dena Brummer, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Northwest of downtown Atlanta in Vinings, muddy water rose from the Chattahootchee River and flooded into the parking lot of the high-end restaurant Canoe. The waters rose into all of the businesses, some of which were nearly half full with water. In the parking lot, waters rose and nearly covered cars.

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As of midnight, the Chattahootchee’s waters were flooding into the streets, leaving some unable to drive through. Down the road in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, near Nancy Creek, multimillion dollar homes were flooded. New Corvettes, BMWs and Lexuses sat submerged as residents banded together to try and push them out of the rising water. Watch flooding in Atlanta’s urban core Fire and rescue crews from all throughout Atlanta came to the area, including boats from Richmond County, to conduct rescues. Two crews, decked in scuba gear with bright lights attached, rowed down the street to the homes trying to check on homeowners. Neighbors rowed their own boats and canoes down the street, rescuing neighbors and pets from homes. Some homeowners stood on their porches, waving flashlights, as the sun began to set. Watch aerial footage of flooding Fire and rescue officials said the area was being slammed with water and was continuing to rise. They weren’t forcing evacuations but were encouraging it. Some said as they saw the waters rising, they began to move their most precious belongings to the second floors of their home to avoid damage. At least six people were rescued from homes in boats. Just west of Atlanta, some areas received about 22 inches of rain since last week, CNN meteorologists reported. About 12 of those inches fell in a 12-hour period from Sunday night to Monday morning. Watch house surrounded by water burn In Cobb County’s Austell, two rescuers paddled their way through rising flood waters searching for stranded victims, video from CNN affiliate WXIA showed. The pair on the inflatable, yellow raft ushered a stranded woman to a section of black-tarred street that was not under water. Nearby, three men pushed their valuables in a kayak as they waded through the shoulder-high muddy waters. Another two men floated on what looked like air mattresses linked together by rope. Watch men float on inflatable mattresses Near Marietta northwest of Atlanta, a flooded bridge blocked the only road out of a residential area surrounded by a national park and the Chattahootchee River. Two buses picked up elementary schoolchildren Monday morning, but flooding prevented them from picking up older students later, and the buses couldn’t return with the first batch in the afternoon, said iReporter Pritam Jaipuriar, who lives there. See Pritam Jaipuriar’s iReport “My first-grader son is staying with a friend of mine,” said Jaipuriar, who was unable to go to work Monday. Some ground-level apartments in the area were flooded, but his unit was fine, he said. Unable to drive for supplies, some residents walked the path to a store a few miles away and returned with bags of groceries, said iReporter Jeff Cofer, who also lives there. See Jeff Cofer’s iReport The flooding from torrential rains drenching the metropolitan Atlanta area “has to rank as one of the worst,” Matt Sena of the Peachtree City, Georgia, National Weather Service told CNN. Watch home’s yard become a lake Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport in five days has received about 4.5 inches more rain than it usually would in all of September, he said. Floodwaters seep into Carroll County home “Hundreds of roads have been closed” in the Atlanta area, Brummer said, adding that Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties “have been impacted the most.” Watch I-75/85, Atlanta’s main corridor, under water Two of the Georgia fatalities involved people trying to drive through floodwater. A vehicle with one man in it was swept off a road in Douglas County, and a car carrying a woman was swept off a road in Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County, east of Atlanta, Brummer said. Seydi Burciaga, 39, was driving to her Lawrenceville home from work when flash flooding trapped her in her vehicle, Gwinnett County police said. She called 911 and police tried to locate her, but Burciaga could not tell them exactly where she was. Floodwater moved her car about 500 feet after she was swept off the roadway, and her attempts to guide rescuers to her by mentioning landmarks were unsuccessful, police said. By the time rescuers found her minivan, she was dead, police said. In Tennessee, a presumed drowning victim was forced into a culvert, or underground storm water drain, about 6 p.m. Sunday, Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner told CNN. Sylvester Kitchens Jr., 46, was with a friend, Albert Miller, when the two decided to swim in a large, flooded ditch, Garner said. He said a Miller family member told him that “basically it was a bet.”

Both managed to grab onto a chain link fence while being buffeted by the strong current, Garner said. A neighbor threw a garden hose for them to grab onto, and Kitchens reached for it but was unable to hold on. Miller clung to the fence for about 20 minutes and was eventually rescued by firefighters, Garner said. Kitchens’ body has not been found, said Garner, who added that it “doesn’t appear he could’ve survived.”