A line of thunderstorms dumped buckets of rain on Augusta’s streets Tuesday evening, flooding them and stranding motorists all over the city’s low-lying areas – even forcing the evacuation of a personal care home in Harrisburg.
The volume of rainwater quickly overwhelmed the city’s storm drains. The National Weather Service reported that more than 1½ inches fell at Daniel Field between 7 and 9 p.m.
As soon as the rain started coming down hard, Brenda Nations said she knew she had to act.
“I started trying to move people right away,” said Nations, whose personal care home sits at a low point on Division Street.
Within minutes, however, the street in front of her home had turned into a pond and water started to cover her yard. A manhole cover in the cemetery across from her home popped open from the force of the flood, she said.
“It was shooting up like a fountain,” Nations said.
With water threatening to cover her porch, she called the Augusta Fire Department and soon, firefighters were helping move the residents to drier ground.
“Three people had to be escorted and one was carried in a chair,” she said.
Nations said her part of Division Street floods regularly because of poor drainage.
“The storm drains and manholes are full of dirt and trash,” she said. “The city never cleans them out. There are plants growing out of them.”
Commissioner Matt Aitken, who assisted with the evacuation, said he talked with city engineering Tuesday night.
“I just found out about this,” he said of the drainage problem. “I’ll be discussing it with engineering to see what we can do.”
Division Street wasn’t the only area where storm drains failed. Parts of Laney-Walker Boulevard and surrounding streets were inundated enough to stop traffic, and manhole covers in numerous low areas became dislodged. A torrent of water ran down from the Hill area on Walton Way, covering an entire lane, and in one section of R.A. Dent Boulevard, at least eight vehicles were stalled in knee-deep water while their stricken occupants talked on cellphones and peered out into the downpour.
Meanwhile, emergency officials were scrambling to cover a deluge of calls for assistance.
Sheriff’s Lt. J.R. Compton said he “wouldn’t even venture to guess” the number of calls received between 7 and 10 p.m. “It has been too much to keep up with.”
He said several streets were closed while authorities waited for water to recede, including the intersection of Peach Orchard Road and Bobby Jones Expressway. “That is a very low area and the water always pools under that overpass,” he said.