MACON, Ga. — Torrential rains from what Gov. Brian Kemp called a 500-year rain event flooded much of downtown Summerville in Chattooga County, as overflowing water from the Chattooga River nearby left numerous houses and businesses without power and water and dealing with a variety of other problems, from structural damage to lost inventory and more.
Some areas of the county received as much as 17 inches of rain in the early hours of Sept. 4, overwhelming the Chattooga River and its feeder streams.
Chattooga County Farm Bureau, located on U.S. Highway 27 in Summerville, sustained about $50,000 worth of damage, according to CCFB President and GFB 1st District Director Bill Bryan, who counted the organization fortunate the damage wasn’t more extensive.
“I told our board it could have been a fire or a tornado,” Bryan said. “We’ll survive.”
The floors were ruined in the CCFB building, which also had internal water damage to lower portions of its walls and water damage to ceiling tiles resulting from a roof leak. The building’s air conditioning unit started running while submerged and was damaged beyond repair.
CCFB staff have relocated to the First Baptist Church pastorium, which is located behind the CCFB office, and by mid-week computer networking had been installed so the office could function. Bryan said the fact that all the membership and insurance information is computerized prevented any major problems.
“Ten years ago, when we had all those files, and everybody had a [paper] file and everything, when we filed everything by hand, it would have been devastating. With everything on computer I think we’ll be all right now,” Bryan said.
Meanwhile, Chattooga County farmer Garrett Hurley, who grows cotton and soybeans along with his father, Greg, lost about 50 acres of cotton, representing about 15% of the farm’s overall crop. The Hurleys had fields next to Racoon Creek and Perennial Creek, which come together and run into the Chattooga River. Garrett estimated the fields were under 12 feet of water. The plants in the soybean and cotton fields were submerged, laying them over and in the soybean field washing the soil away from their roots.
Garrett said the cotton field looked like it had been sprayed with paraquat. The soybean plants survived, but he wouldn’t know until the plants matured whether the beans rotted or sprouted in the hulls.
“We’re looking at a 10-day forecast of no rain, so we’re optimistic of the potential in it still, but it basically took our top end out of our yield,” Garrett said. “It turned a great crop into a below-average crop.”
Like Bryan, Garrett was left counting his blessings in the wake of the storm.
“I guess we’re really fortunate that we’re talking about crops and not homes,” he said. “There’s hundreds of people here in Chattooga County that had multiple inches of water in the floor of their house. It’s hard for me to call it that bad with some of the other destruction that I’ve seen. It’s not like my family is going to go without. We’re going to be able to go another year anyway.”
–Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau