Digging Deeper: past storm damage cost SWGA millions - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: past storm damage cost SWGA millions

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While Georgia dodged a bullet with Hurricane Irene, south Georgia is no stranger to tropical storms and hurricanes.

High winds and tornados have pounded the region over the years as storms have come through the Gulf.

The most memorable when Hurricane Alberto came through south Georgia and stalled in North Georgia sending millions of gallons of water into south Georgia causing extensive damage.

Those who lived through it won't soon forget the damage left behind by Tropical Storm Alberto. It stalled over south Georgia in July 1994 and caused what many refer to as the 500 year flood in Albany.

"We experienced mass flooding all around and in areas where it just wasn't conceivable," said Chucky Mathis, Dougherty County Public Works Assistant Director.

"That was multi-multi-millions of dollars in damage," said Jim Vaught, Deputy EMA Director.

A car carrying seven passengers plunged into the Flint River killing two children and injuring five others. More than 30 Georgians were killed. Twenty-thousand people in and around Albany had to evacuate their homes.  Georgia Power had to cut power to entire neighborhoods.

"You can leave houses energized until water gets up to the receptacles and at that point you have to start de-energizing houses," said Jay Smith, Georgia Power.

That's not the only damage caused by Hurricanes or Tropical Storms.  Digging Deeper we found seven major storms that have ravaged south Georgia in the last 17 years. Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994, Tropical Storm Earl in 1998, Tropical Storm Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne all in September of 2004, Hurricane Dennis in 2005, and Tropical Storm Fay in 2008. Alberto alone cost the region 500 million dollars, the other together about 15 million according to EMA director Jim Vaught.

"It's the high winds in combination with the rain, but the high winds blowing the tree limbs, and cracking them off and falling onto cars, falling onto homes and the rapid build up of water," said Vaught.

That damage adds up, Hurricane Dennis' damage totaled seven million dollars. A hundred homes were damaged in Moultrie. Five thousand were without power in Albany. Each storm teaches public works.

"We've spruced up our inventory with pumps and things and we're implementing storm drain systems in low lying areas to be able to pump water out of those areas, we've learned a lot," said Mathis.

So that if Albany took a hit like Mississippi did in Hurricane Katrina, which is possible.

"If you even go back and look at Katrina and all, how far it came up into Mississippi and all if you drew a line across you'd run right through all of southwest Georgia," said Vaught.

South Georgia would be ready.

Storms through south Georgia have resulted in three Presidential declarations of disaster area for those areas affected.

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