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Rain continues tonight; another 2 inches possible

Lake Lanier will retain most of rainfall, corps says

POSTED: November 10, 2009 5:50 p.m.

UPDATE:
Rainfall total:
1.69 inches (as of 5 p.m.)

Lake Lanier level:
10.71.47 (as of 5:15 p.m.)

Almost no water will be released from Lake Lanier over the next few days as heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Ida hits Georgia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday.

Rainfall from the tropical system today should be heavy across North Georgia. A flash flood watch is in effect for most of Northeast Georgia, including Gainesville, until early Wednesday morning and 3-5 inches of rain is likely, with heavier amounts possible locally.

Across Northeast Georgia, officials are bracing for the heavy rain, making sure culverts and other drainage systems aren’t blocked. In Gainesville, school officials are working to ensure that leaky roofs on some schools won’t be a disruption today.

"We’ve got all the roof drains cleaned out and all the leaves swept off the roofs," said Superintendent Merrianne Dyer. "We’ve alerted all the schools that have the leaks to have their trash can plans ready."

Gainesville buses will operate on time as usual, but buses will avoid frequently flooded roads such as Green Street, Dyer said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami downgraded Ida to a tropical storm Monday morning after its top sustained winds dropped to nearly 70 mph.

But the storm remains a torrential rainmaker. The heaviest rain will be in Middle and South Georgia, according to the National Weather Service.

As the system moves from south to north, the lower lakes in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin will fill up first, said Patrick Robbins, corps spokesman in Mobile, Ala.

"So, at Lanier, we will not be making any releases for at least the next two days except through the small generator as we watch what’s occurring downstream before ... we decide what to do at that point," he said.

During torrential floods in Atlanta in September, the U.S. Corps of Engineers was criticized for releasing minimum flows at Buford Dam.

Critics charged that the corps shouldn’t have released any water, while corps officials said the flow out of large dams is rarely halted completely because of adverse impacts on river environments.

At 9:15 p.m. Monday, the level of Lake Lanier was 1,071.22 feet above sea level, almost a quarter foot above full pool. After two years of drought, Northeast Georgia has seen higher than normal rainfall in 2009.

Although Ida has weakened and won’t hit the U.S. as a hurricane, heavy rain still is expected along her path.

"The tropical system is weakening quite a bit, but there’s still a great deal of moisture associated with it," said Kent McMullen, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City.

Rainfall today could be heavy at times, McMullen said. The rain should continue into tonight before tapering off Wednesday morning.

Winds will be 15-20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph, McMullen said.

"But that’s really nothing out of the ordinary for a storm system that moves through North Georgia this time of the year."

In both Gainesville and Hall County, public works crews were out Monday doing what they could to prevent any flooding issues from the expected heavy rains this week.

"The biggest thing we’re doing is checking all the culverts and making sure from the past rains they’re not blocked," said Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden. "We’re just kind of making sure the water will flow as quickly as possible."

Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery said any time the department anticipates heavy rain, workers inspect and clean basins and drains.

"We don’t want any unexpected street flooding so we have a routine we do prior to any heavy rainfall," Dockery said.

Hall County has had a number of roads damaged by rainfall this year.

"We’ve repaired some of the damages we’ve had recently so we should have better flow of water in those areas," Rearden said.

Dockery said he doesn’t foresee any major issues associated with rainfall from the tropical storm.

"It’s been dry for more than a week now, and that’s good, but anytime you have saturated soils you run the risk of trees falling and flash flooding being exacerbated because of that," Dockery said.

Both the city and the county will have crews on call after hours in case any situations arise.

"We have people on standby every night, but with a flash flood watch will have more than the number we normally do," Rearden said.

A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. The weather service urges residents to pay attention to weather service radio or the local media for updates.

The weather services said creeks and streams in the watch area will respond to the rain with fairly rapid rises expected, especially in the mountains and the metro Atlanta area. Minor flooding of creeks, rivers and streams is likely.

Staff writers Melissa Weinman, Jessica Jordan and Jeff Gill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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