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Ellijay, GA
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August 1 - Heavy rains caused a flash flood which ripped culverts and bridges from the roadways, stranding residents in the Clear Creek Acres subdivision.
August 1 - Some residents have said the Cartecay River has not been this high since the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan came through Gilmer County as a tropical storm in 2004. Reports of decks, trees and propane tanks floating down the river Thursday morning.
A home on Grey Fox Trail at the end of Bernhardt Road sees the swollen Cartecay River flowing all around it. Several residents on this riverside road had to flee to higher ground early Thursday morning. Early reports are that between 6"-8" of rain fell in the southern and southeastern sectors of Gilmer County overnight, July 31-Aug. 1.
August 1 - The pervasive smell of propane filled the neighborhood at Grey Fox Trail after a tank lodged under a deck when the Cartecay River flooded Thursday morning. The tank was hissing as gas could be seen escaping from the tank.
August 1 - Portions of the Cartecay River looked like the Colorado River just below this point where the Cartecay River Experience is located on Highway 52 East just outside of East Ellijay.
August 1 - A warehouse at West Block Company in East Ellijay just across the Cartecay River from Highway 52 East appears to have a foot or more of floodwater inside as a result of heavy rains overnight. (Photos by Mark Millican)
August 7 - Floodwaters on Old Hwy 5 S. have subsided since this photo was taken earlier this morning. But several areas and neighborhoods off the highway reachable only by narrow roads are still partially underwater. Use caution and common sense if you have to navigate any areas covered by standing water. (Photo by Michael Andrews)
August 7 - Floodwaters rushed across the property of the Amerigas propane supplier on Old Highway 5 S. in Talking Rock this morning. Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said the Old 5 S. area is the hardest hit in the most recent round of flooding to sweep Gilmer and Pickens counties. (Photo by Michael Andrews)
August 7 - Use extreme caution navigating Old Highway 5 South today. Areas on both sides of the road south of the Hwy. 515/382 intersection are flooded almost to the Pickens County line. Pictured is a flooded field just past Burnette's Auto Repair that was just one of several properties in the Whitestone/ south Gilmer County area submerged by rushing waters this morning. (Photo by Michael Andrews)
August 7 - Residential and commercial property and farmland is again at risk of being flooded today, Aug. 7, this time throughout Gilmer County. Here Cox Creek at the intersection with Boardtown Road inches closer to a home.
by Mark Millican

When vacationer David Brown got up and noticed huge logs floating down the Cartecay River before 7 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 1, he was not alarmed at first. Then when he went to walk his dog and noticed the river rising “really fast” onto properties along Grey Fox Trail, he took action.

“I ran back and got everybody out of the house,” he said from higher ground on Bernhardt Road later Thursday morning. “By then, we had to drive through a foot of water to get out.”

A storm system that dumped between 5 to 7  inches of rain in the broad corner where Gilmer, Pickens and Dawson counties meet caused a flash flood that saw swiftwater rescue operations commence that continued through Thursday afternoon. Several homes were flooded in the eastern and southeastern sections of Gilmer, Chief Tony Pritchett of the fire and rescue department said.

“We’ve got multiple people in their homes trapped, not able to get out due to water either submerging or surrounding their house,” he said early Thursday morning, adding the Blackberry Mountain and Clear Creek communities were especially hard hit. Multiple rescue and evacuation operations were also conducted on Azalea Drive, Hemlock Drive, Avory Lane and Homer Wright Road, Pritchett said. 

Pritchett said there were no serious injuries except for East Ellijay Police Chief Larry Callahan, who was almost electrocuted in a freak accident during evacuation efforts due to flooding. Callahan had a tree fall on his patrol car on Riverside Drive, then when he tried to get out he was severely shocked due to a power line coming down with the tree into some water (see related story). 

Pritchett said the Cartecay River rose seven feet in less than half an hour.

“That’s the best definition of a flash flood I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Because the rivers and creeks were rising so fast, the National Weather Service had trouble passing along flooding “models” to the county’s emergency operations center, one source said.

Four homes were damaged beyond repair, and 29 other homes received minor damage, Pritchett said.

Like Tropical Storm Ivan

Dick Martin of Grey Fox Trail likened the early August flooding to Tropical Storm Ivan in 2004, which dumped rain in the region for most of three days.

“In ’04 with Ivan, we had just over six feet of water,” he said of his low-lying cabin on the river road. “I imagine we’ve gotten pretty close to that (Thursday). I lost a car (to Ivan) in ’04.”

Martin said he knew it was time to clear out when he said “stairs, trees and parts of deck” rushing down the muddy, rain-swollen Cartecay. “It suddenly started coming up very quickly around 7:15 (a.m.). I got out by 7:20.”

A pervasive smell of propane covered the riverside neighborhood. A tank that had dislodged from its foundation slammed into the lower deck of a cabin and was hissing while releasing gas. Martin called the gas company and soon a Georgia State Patrol trooper had the neighborhood blocked off until the tank could be pulled out.

The Weather Channel noted the corner where Gilmer, Pickens and Dawson counties touch was the epicenter of the heavy rain, anywhere from 5 to 6 inches. Jim Leslie of Mountain Aire Environmental reported a rain gauge on Burnt Mountain measured over 7 inches, including rain Wednesday night and into Thursday.

On Friday morning, Martin said he had “worked all night” after the floodwaters receded, and had a cleanup crew at his cabin before lunch.

“I lost all my personal stuff in ’04 — my family’s history — so this was nothing,” he said. “I haven’t been able to purchase insurance. The last time (2004) I spent $35,000, this time it will probably be half that. That first time was $100,000 worth of mental and emotional things. But after hearing stories of what other people went through, I can’t complain.”

‘Had to slam on my brakes’

Dustin Hamby left his Blackberry Mountain Road neighborhood to go work out at a gym in town at 5:30 Thursday morning.

“Everything was fine, just rain,” he said. “When I came back at 6:55 — I remember looking at the clock — I had to slam on my brakes when I got to Azalea Drive. It was amazing how much the water had risen.”

Hamby’s wife, Brandy, got a call.

“Dustin called and said, ‘Don’t go to work,’” Brandy said. “It was my first day on a new job, and I didn’t get to go to work.”

Then Brandy called her mother-in-law, Sylvia Hamby, who was with her husband Greg. They had just left their other home in Acworth.

“We were on the way to work and turned around and headed this way,” Sylvia said. “My adrenaline really kicked in when we got here. I parked the car on the side of the road, sobbing. I climbed through the woods on higher ground to get to the back of our house. The front was covered with water, but it didn’t get in.”

Sylvia Hamby said she “couldn’t thank Amicalola EMC enough.”

“They were amazing,” she gushed. “They got the power back on by 2 or 3 o’clock, and I was able to call and check on people.”

Martin noted “living in paradise” on the creekside has its downside.

“I thought this would never happen again,” he lamented. “That’s the second time in a lifetime — that’s enough. But don’t write that I’m handicapped or down about it. Again, I can’t complain.”

Flooding, Round Two

by Mark Millican

Fire & Rescue Chief Tony Pritchett reported Wednesday morning's (Aug. 7) heaviest rain has been between 5 to 7 inches in the south and southwest corner of Gilmer County.

"It's basically a repeat of last week, but in a different spot," he said at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday. "The flood event is almost the same as last week, but the rain has been over a broader perio

Pritchett said problems with flooding have been around the communities of Leeches and Whitestone, and roadways such as Highway 5 South, Roundtop Road and Holden Road. 

"It's probably going to get worse," he continued. "We've got a storm system coming out of Tennessee that could bring 2 to 3 more inches before 10 p.m. tonight."

Five rescue situations involving around eight people have occurred thus far, but Pritchett said there have been no injuries.

Norman Pope, public information officer for Pickens County EMA, confirmed a report that the Nelson area had received just over 10 inches of rain. He added a swiftwater rescue team from Cobb County had helped out in some flooding evacuation efforts in northern Pickens.

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