According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a deluge is “a great flow of water or of something that overwhelms”. The second definition is “a steady falling of water from the sky in significant quantity”. I would say that both of those definitions fit the rain we had on Monday afternoon here in Southwest Georgia.
Do two to three inches an hour qualify as a significant quantity? You bet it does. Just ask any of the many residents of Seminole and Decatur counties that watched helplessly as the water rose around their homes and businesses.
The phone started ringing at my office and house about an hour after the rain started. That is one of the unanticipated consequences of being the new mayor. “Are the pumps working?” “Are any of the city’s drains stopped up?” The answer was yes and no. Everything was working fine. It was just that nothing can prepare you for that much rain in such a short a period of time.
According to the Department of Transportation, Donalsonville received five inches in just under two hours. South of town, the rain was even harder with up to seven and a half inches falling in the same time frame. As flat as we are in this part of the world, there just isn’t anywhere for all that water to go.
Facebook, Twitter, and email allow us to share pictures and videos almost in real time. Our communities have seen floods before, but never so quickly. All over the area, photos showed the rising water, often in places that had never been flooded before.
It didn’t help that the ground was already saturated from the rains on Sunday and the week before. Following a multi-year drought, it seems hard to pray for the rain to stop, but the last two years have clearly filled up our lakes and ponds and the aquifers have to be pretty well charged.
On the good side of things locally, the intersection near the Presbyterian Church in the heart of the city was not overwhelmed. The work done by the DOT over the last couple of years kept the intersection open and the church did not flood.
The work done by the county over the past few years to keep Fish Pond Drain open and cleared from debris helped keep the water moving out of town, even as the drainage system was overwhelmed. A few residents did suffer damage. Had the rain continued, it would have been much worse.
In my childhood, we would have said it was raining like cats and dogs. That phrase likely had its origins almost three hundred years ago when floods killed many dogs and cats, leaving them in the streets. At least we can say it wasn’t that bad this time around.
No matter how much your state, city and county officials plan for these types of events, we are occasionally reminded that Mother Nature can still outsmart us and overwhelm our best laid plans. We will just keep working at it.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org