Atlanta weather: Snow possible by weekend

Sunday's heavy rain caused minor flooding and flight delays, but tornado watches and warnings expired without any reports of tornadoes.

Overnight flooding forced the closing of U.S. 78 near Hewatt Road in Gwinnett County before daybreak Monday. All westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes between Hewatt and Killian Hill Road were closed due to damage to the road, said Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Marshall. There was no estimate on when the road would reopen.

Firefighters in Peachtree City had to use boats to evacuate a handful of residents from a condo complex, and the heavy rain caused the north and south forks of Peachtree Creek to inch above flood stage in DeKalb County Sunday evening.

A day-long tornado watch was lifted at 6 p.m., just in time for flood warnings and high-wind advisories to kick in. Just before noon, a wind gust of 44 mph was recorded just west of downtown Atlanta.

A National Weather Service flood watch was allowed to expire at 10 p.m. though minor flooding was expected overnight and into the day Monday in other metro waterways, most notably the Yellow River southeast of Atlanta.

The rain caused havoc at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with some arriving flights delayed an average of 4 hours and 46 minutes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

A Delta flight from Wichita, Kan., to Atlanta was diverted to Huntsville, Ala. The jet was supposed to arrive in Atlanta by 2 p.m. Sunday. It was still reboarding at 6 p.m. in Huntsville after refueling.

“We are now in the recovery mode,” Heather Faulkner, a Delta spokeswoman, said Sunday evening.

By 10 p.m., most of the storm had rolled through Atlanta and was on its way to Augusta.

The National Weather Service reported 2.75 inches of rain at the city's official measuring point at Hartsfield-Jackson, a record amount for Jan. 24. The old record for the date was 2.24 inches, set in 1990.

The rain swelled creeks and rivers to “typical” levels for a winter storm, said Kent Frantz, a Weather Service hydrologist in Peachtree City. “The main stem rivers saw pretty significant rises,” he said. But the downpour was relatively brief, so any flooding should be minor, he said around 10 p.m.

Indeed, in Peachtree City at about that time, firefighters were wrapping up a rescue at the Tinsley Mill condo complex, where water filled the parking lot and threatened to engulf homes. The city fire department used boats to pluck the residents from about 10 of the homes between 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Battalion Commander Ron Mundy said.

“The deepest water was around chest deep,” he said.

The condos are on North Lake Drive near Flat Creek Road by Lake Peachtree, an area with historic flooding problems, Mundy said.

Over in DeKalb, the north and south forks of Peachtree Creek reached 12.1 inches at 7:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. respectively, Frantz, the Weather Service hydrologist, said. That is 0.1 inch above flood stage. The extra water didn’t cause flooding downstream, where Peachtree Creek enters Midtown Atlanta, he said.

The Yellow River was over 8 feet high and rising late Sunday. Minor flood stage for that river is 11 feet.

“The forecast has it going to about 14.3 feet,” Weather Service meteorologist Laura Griffith said. The river touches Gwinnett, DeKalb and Rockdale counties on its way to Newton County southeast of Atlanta.

A couple of trailer parks in Newton might see flooding when the river crests Monday evening, Griffith said.

Other metro waterways that Frantz, the hydrologist, expected to flood: Big Creek between Cumming and Alpharetta and the Alcovy River in Gwinnett. “The Chattahoochee [River] is not in flood stage yet and really is not expected to be,” he said.

The Weather Service had flood warnings in effect for several other Georgia waterways until as late as Tuesday afternoon.

The rainfall brought puddling on metro Atlanta roads, but the Georgia Department of Transportation reported no serious problems.

The forecast for metro Atlanta called for any lingering showers to end by mid-morning Monday, leaving afternoon skies mostly cloudy, with highs in the low 50s.

Sunny skies are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, with highs in the 50s and lows in the upper 20s to mid-30s.

A 30 percent chance of rain is predicted for Thursday, increasing to 70 percent Thursday night and 60 percent on Friday. Highs will be in the upper 50s on Thursday and upper 40s on Friday, with lows Thursday night in the upper 30s.

The Weather Service said there's a 40 percent chance of snow Friday night, when lows should be in the upper 20s.

Saturday will be mostly cloudy, with a 20 percent chance of rain and snow and highs in the low 40s.

Staff Writers Larry Hartstein, Mike Morris and Mashaun Simon contributed to this article.

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