By Amy Wenk
It rained. It poured. It flooded. Now Sandy Springs has to clean up the mess.
As if a payback for last summer’s drought, the late-September deluge caused havoc in the city. Large trees in the soggy ground fell defeated across roadways. Residential streets became fast-flowing rivers. The playground became a water park and forests became lakes. Overflowing storm drains and blinking traffic signals forced connectors to close. Bridges suffered; retaining walls collapsed. Muddy waters chock full of trash and debris soaked countless carpets in basements and cars.
“It’s been a very trying time to the city,” City Manager John McDonough said Sept. 28. “Finally the sun has returned.”
Here’s a look at the city’s flood response and recovery:
ChatComm, the 911 center for Sandy Springs and Johns Creek, “operated very, very well,” said Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult, considering it opened Sept. 1. The center staffed all 14 positions, and on Sept. 21, operators answered 1,270 calls. The previous high was 699. When the storm surged between 2 and 5 p.m. on Sept. 21, staff took 614 calls in the three hours. The city of Sandy Springs’ Citizens Call Center (770-730-5600) answered 708 calls on Sept. 21, a 20-percent increase from the everyday.
Public Works remained busy during the heavy rain and flooding. The department:
On Friday, Sept. 18, checked stormwater drainage and fixed traffic signals.
On Saturday, Sept. 19, responded to pot holes, down signals and fallen trees.
On Sunday, Sept. 20, answered calls for collapsed pipes in two locations, flooded homes and fallen trees. They called in emergency sub-contractors to help.
On Monday, Sept. 21, evaluated bridge, roadway and culvert damage. They also repaired signals and removed fallen trees.
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, closed bridges across Nancy Creek on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and across Marsh Creek on Riverside Drive. Glen Errol Road was also closed.
“It was quite a day,” Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Ham said about Sept. 21. “We responded to a little over 400 percent more [calls] than average during this time.”
During the flood, Fire Rescue:
Ran 125 calls on Sept. 21.
Increased staff from 28 to 38, employing extra people to remove fallen trees.
Evacuated nearly 100 people from flooded areas, including around 50 from East Powderhorn Road.
Removed 38 impeding trees.
Rescued 40 horses and four dogs from Huntcliff subdivision.
“The patrol division was just swamped,” City Manager John McDonough said. On Sept. 21, from noon to 9 p.m., the department responded to 203 calls for service. The average is about 100, said Police Chief Sult. “Our workload on the street literally doubled immediately,” he said, noting at one point, 26 streets were closed in the city. “It was literally an all-hands-on-the-deck type deal. These guys and gals were very vigilant in going out there and performing their duty. They didn’t hesitate.”
Cleanup and next steps
The Community Development department began initial assessments of flood damage Sept. 21 and continues the inspection each day. The department had received 185 work requests as of Sept. 28. Public Works is examining repair options for two closed bridges and one closed road (see page 1). The department is also reviewing two remaining washouts on Riverside and Spalding drives; cleaning catch basins; removing debris from bridge crossings at Glenridge Drive and Windsor Parkway; and reviewing and recommending fixes for mudslides on Lake Forrest and Glenridge drives. The city submitted preliminary damage information to GEMA Sept. 29 as a first step to obtain federal money for disaster assistance.
Help for residents
Sandy Springs is now eligible for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Register online at www.disasterassistance.gov. In addition, the city of Sandy Springs is allowing residents who experienced flood damage at their home to initiate repairs without first obtaining a permit. Officials are also looking to have special trash pickup for large items like carpet.