Atlanta’s Christmas leavings: mud, floods, fog

By Johnny Edwards

The Christmas scene on Dolly Harris Road wasn’t exactly the makings of a holiday postcard.

Frightful weather brought neighbors together not to frolic in the snow, but to hook chains between tractors and cars that got stuck in an impassable swath of mud. As the tractors pulled them free, people and vehicles were left caked in red Georgia clay.

A day later, the mud remained over a section of road about the length of a football field, and a washed-out culvert had the road blocked on the north end, too. With scattered showers coming Sunday, and another round of thunderstorms coming Monday, the Diget family could only leave voicemail messages for the Meriwether County roads department, begging for help.

“It’ll just make it worse,” 16-year-old Dusty Diget said. “All the water is just going to sit still, and the mud will just be more and more.”

For most metro Atlantans, the weekend saw the return of semi-tolerable weather — although a day too late to answer Christmas wishes. The area has so far suffered a downer of a Yuletide with torrential rain, flooding, musty fog and record-high temperatures.

Sunday will open to fog, Channel 2 Action News Meteorologist Brian Monahan said. But with only a 30 percent chance of rain, and the sun eventually cracking through mostly gray skies, neighborhoods can continue drying out.

Piling on insult, Friday’s high of 75 broke Christmas Day record, previously set at 72 in on a Christmas past during the Reagan administration. Saturday’s high of 77 shattered another record, and Sunday’s temperature is expected to do the same — making it warm enough for short sleeves during a time usually spent singing songs about letting it snow and listening for sleigh bells.

Temperatures should fall back to Autumn territory as the week moves toward New Year’s Eve, with a high of 67 on Tuesday and 64 on Wednesday, Monahan said.

“It is warm, record warm,” Monahan said. “It is humid. But the chance of rain, much lower for us today across north Georgia.”

Some areas of metro Atlanta saw as much as 10 inches of rain, with Christmas spirit expressed helping neighbors pump water out of their ground floors and drying out sopping wet rugs. Round after round of thunderstorms turned last-minute shopping into a drenching mess. Trees fell. Neighborhoods flooded. Roads became risky.

Chad Turkett, owner of Water Removal Services in Alpharetta, worked all day Christmas and the Saturday after, suctioning water out of flooded basements, ripping out soured carpets, drying out baseboards and cleaning up soiled debris. He handled about a dozen calls himself, and his two other crews handled another dozen between them.

Turkett said most of his customers lacked flood insurance, so they aren’t covered for water that seeped through their foundations.

“That’s the hardest thing, having to pay for it out of pocket, right here at Christmas time,” Turkett said.

After the weekend reprieve, another round of thunderstorms is expected Monday night and Tuesday morning. But it should be nothing like preceding days, when creeks and rivers swelled at or above their crests.

“The good news is over the next couple of days, we’re not going to dump a whole lot more rain into those rivers, creeks and streams,” Monahan said. “So these flood warnings gradually over the next couple of days will be allowed to expire.”

The Riget family, in Meriwether County, has two pickup trucks stationed on the other side of the washed out culvert — left there after the family returned from visiting relatives and couldn’t pass. So to go anywhere, they have to make a short walk, then make a running leap over hard-flowing waters to reach their vehicles.

Something good about Christmas 2015: the circumstances have them getting to know their similarly-stuck neighbors, Dusty Diget said.

“This Christmas has actually been really fun,” the teen said. “There’s a bunch of good people that live on this road.”