Press "Enter" to skip to content

Original coverage of Tropical Storm Alberto 25 years ago

(The Herald Gazette won multiple writing and photography awards for its coverage of the Great Flood of 1994. This is the lead story from the July 12, 1994 edition.) By Walter Geiger A frustrated would-be Hurricane Alberto, who grew only to tropical storm strength, cried himself to sleep over Barnesville-Lamar County and the surrounding area early last week dumping up to 25 inches of rain in a 48-hour period and causing extensive flash flood damage. For the first time in its history, Lamar County was declared a Federal Disaster Area with initial damage estimates pegged at $3.2 million. Miraculously, no deaths or serious injuries were reported locally but neighboring counties and those downstream on both the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers were not so fortunate. The most serious problem here was the demise of the dam at the Barnesville city reservoir along Edie Creek. The 32-year-old earthen dam fell victim to onrushing floodwaters when its spillway proved woefully inadequate to handle the volume of water. ’The worst has happened. The dam is gone,’ Barnesville city manager Kenny Roberts told an emergency meeting of the Barnesville city council Tuesday evening. The destruction of the dam required the shutdown of certain operations at The William Carter Company, the community’s largest employer, and threatened drinking water supplies for all those served by the water system. It also triggered a massive, collective effort on the part of county and municipal employees to build a temporary dam to back up enough water to allow for the pumping of raw water from the facility. These efforts were aided by the fact that neither the reservoir pump house nor a special 16-inch line strapped to pilings on the dam were damaged although a 50-foot span of the pipe was left dangling without support. The lake drained quickly once the heavy rains stopped and work on the temporary dam began at 7 p.m. Wednesday and crews had reined in the rapidly-escaping water supply by 8 a.m. Friday. Many of those involved in the effort worked continuously during that period. An aerial overview of Lamar and surrounding counties Wednesday afternoon revealed the power of the water. Flood-waters roaring over the dams at High Falls Lake and Jackson Lake looked like Niagara Falls from the air with heavy mist boiling up from each site. In the Towaliga River below High Falls, entire mobile homes could be seen floating down stream along with pieces of docks, boats and all sorts of other debris. The scene was similar in the Ocmulgee below the Jackson Lake dam. These two rivers joined forces in Monroe County just north of Juliette before virtually wiping that carefully- restored village from the face of the earth. The floodwaters then rolled south into Macon, creeping into homes as occupants slept and threatening to drown them in their beds. Both 1-16 and 1-75 in Macon were closed for much of the week. The floodwaters began to recede in Macon Friday but by then the Ocmulgee was threatening Hawkinsville and other points down river. To the west, the raging Flint River looked like an ugly brown scar cutting through the lush green landscape. The Flint lapped at bridges in Woodbury and Thomaston but focused its wrath on Montezuma where the entire downtown business district lay completely underwater by the weekend. From there the river ripped its way through Lake Blackshear and roared into Albany and Bainbridge, yanking coffins from the ground and sweeping people from their homes and cars to death by drowning. Back home, Barnesville-Lamar County was drying out but the price tag on storm damage had skyrocketed. According to initial estimates made by local officials for state and federal emergency management agencies, the city reservoir damage alone amounted to $2 million. The city estimated street and right of way damage at $300,000 and water and sewer line damage at $400,000. The county meanwhile had pegged damage to county roads at $500,000. These figures did not take into account damage to bridges and roadways maintained by the state. Also not taken into account was the damage to businesses and private homes. At week’s end, county officials had marked up a county map showing damaged roads and bridges in the county. ’It would have been a lot easier to mark the few roads where there was no damage at all,’ one said, maintaining a sense of humor despite exhaustion. WHAT DO YOU RECALL about the great flood? Share your memories in the comments, on The Herald Gazette Facebook page or via e-mail to

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Website by - Copyright 2021