Originally created 09/09/04

Residents recover from record-setting rainfall



The remnants of Tropical Storm Frances dumped record-setting amounts of rain over the area in the past two days, but Richmond and Columbia counties fared well during the storm compared with other locales, officials said.

The storm produced heavy rain and damaging winds that knocked down power lines and trees, but flooding was limited, said Battalion Chief Michael Weathers, of the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

"All in all, it went pretty smooth," Chief Weathers said. "We were really planning for a worst-case scenario."

Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director, said that although the area received a lot of rain, there were very few cases of flooding and no damage to roads in her county.

"Our stormwater projects are helping," she said. "In the past, we would have had flooding."

Over a 48-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Daniel Field Airport recorded 3.69 inches of rain, according to Jim Kilmer, of the National Weather Service's office in West Columbia, S.C.

Rain from Tropical Storm Frances even broke a 54-year-old weather record, he said.

From midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday, Augusta Regional Airport recorded 2.99 inches, surpassing a 24-hour record of 1.39 inches in 1950, Mr. Kilmer said.

Columbia County officials said they had received a two-day total of 6 inches of rain at the Evans Government Complex and about 3 inches in Appling.

Aiken received 4.05 inches of rain over a 48-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Mr. Kilmer said.

Although the National Weather Service broadcast more than 20 tornado watches in the office's 23-county district during the storms, Richmond County and Augusta escaped without a twister touching down, Mr. Kilmer said.

Beech Island experienced the brunt of the storm.

The National Weather Service received reports from residents and emergency officials that a funnel cloud swept through a one-mile stretch near Highway 125 just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

In the Green Valley RV Park off Highway 125, the storm tossed tree limbs about that crushed awnings and shattered car windows.

"All you heard was bing, bing, bing ... branches coming down like crazy," said Sandra Ornoski, whose Chevrolet Blazer was damaged by a falling tree limb.

"The back and the side windows broke, the tailgate is bent out, but this can be replaced. A life can't," she said.

A tree crashed on top of Frank Jackson's RV in the trailer park as he ate dinner at a nearby restaurant. He spent the evening at a local motel after he discovered the tree had poked several holes in the roof.

"It was pouring rain here, and it was leaking from one end to the other," he said. "I'm glad I wasn't here."

Though Tropical Storm Frances has passed, more bad weather might be on the way.

Ivan, the hurricane gathering strength in the Atlantic Ocean, could follow the path of Frances and Charley, bringing more rain and wind to Southern states at the end of the week.

Officials are watching Hurricane Ivan carefully and will put into effect contingency plans if the storm heads toward the area, Chief Weathers said.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Tucker said her department was taking a breather but was staying prepared in case Hurricane Ivan forced more evacuees from Florida into the area.

"Everything is still in place," she said. "We're not demobilizing as far as the shelters that would stay open."

Reach Kate Lewis, Preston Sparks and Krista Zilizi at (706) 724-0851.