Flooded homes are shown in in Mableton, Ga., on Tuesday. Heavy rains caused flooding in and around the Atlanta area.AP photo
AUSTELL, Ga. — Neighborhoods, schools and even roller coasters at Six Flags over Georgia were awash in several feet of murky, brown water Tuesday, and officials found a ninth storm victim who had been swept away from her car a day earlier.
Georgia officials warned worried residents to wait for the floodwaters to recede before checking out their damaged homes, and in Tennessee, a retirement center was evacuated.
Torrential Southeast rains soaked the region for days, knocking motorists from cars and splitting at least one mobile home. A Tennessee man who jumped in the floodwaters was still missing.
Washed-out roads and flooded freeways around metro Atlanta caused commuters headaches and hundreds of residents sought refuge in shelters. About 120 residents of a Tennessee retirement center were evacuated by boats and trucks and others were ferried from low-lying neighborhoods and motels in a Chattanooga suburb as two nearby creeks continued to rise.
Georgia emergency officials said they were confident those in immediate danger had been evacuated, but were concerned about residents attempting to return to their homes too soon.
“We had people who were out safely but decided they wanted to get back in danger,” said Charley English, head of Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. Sonny Perdue asked President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in Georgia and urged residents to stay away from flooded areas. Officials were beginning to assess the damage and did not provide a financial estimate.
“I want to plead with you to give these waters time to recede,” Perdue said. “Rescuers are putting their lives at risk to try to get someone out who foolishly drove through rushing waters.”
The skies were clear and even sunny in parts of Georgia on Tuesday. Most of the rain eased overnight, but some residents in some areas woke up to new flooding.
In west Atlanta, resident Garrett Nail and several neighbors worked several hours to clear a tree that had blocked a road to their community.
“It was troubling at first. There was no power. We knew people had to get to work, school, doctor’s appointments,” said Nail. “We were left with two options. Help ourselves or wait on the government. We obviously decided to help ourselves.”
State climatologist David Stooksbury said the ground was saturated and unable to absorb the large amounts of water.
“It just takes time for that water to work through the system,” he said.
About 12,000 Georgia Power customers were without power. Scattered outages were also reported in North Carolina.
Over 300 people were being helped at shelters across the Atlanta and north Georgia region, according to Red Cross officials.