In wake of flooding, metro Atlantans clean up mess with holiday spirit

Thornton Kennedy II (in the Santa hat) of Atlanta and his son Thornton spent Christmas Day up on the rooftop ... addressing wires tossed about during Christmas Eve storms.

Thornton Kennedy II (in the Santa hat) of Atlanta and his son Thornton spent Christmas Day up on the rooftop ... addressing wires tossed about during Christmas Eve storms.

Christmas Day found Jake Rothschild on his knees, scrubbing the storm out of his flooded living room.

But somehow in the messy aftermath of the rains that barraged him and so many metro Atlantans, people found something of the meaning of this holiday.

They came through for one another. Stories of people helping each other dotted the metro landscape, each one representing a little something positive at the end of a year that seemed so filled with, well, negativity. Neighbors lent each other sump pumps, helped sweep out wet garages and shared Facebook advice on how to re-light a water heater.

Friends offered big fans to dry out the rugs in Rothschild’s historic home in College Park. They helped him remove the three inches of water and delivered a dehumidifier. A WalMart worker went out of his way to help with a steam cleaner.

“I’m feeling very grateful,” said Rothschild, 52. “I’m very aware of how lucky I am.”

Say what you will about this Christmas, it will be long remembered for the rumbling rainstorms that wouldn’t quit, the flooding that made holiday travel even worse, and the temperatures that seemed more appropriate for a Jimmy Buffet song than Christmas. Friday’s high of 75 broke a record for Christmas Day.

The worst appears to be over, according to Katie Walls, a meteorologist with Channel 2 Action News. The flood watch is expected to end this morning. There’s still a 20 percent chance of rain today, but nothing on the scale of what we’ve seen.

“We’ll finally be seeing some drier air,” Walls said.

Still, any rain these days is enough to put the fear of flooding in people. Anywhere between two to seven inches fell on Georgia since Monday — 6.39 inches in Atlanta — and Thursday set a record of 3.93 inches at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

A rescue story

Metro Atlantans braved all sorts of weather trouble this week. Wave after wave of thunderstorms Thursday transformed last-minute shopping into a waterborne adventure. Around the Atlanta area, trees fell, neighborhoods flooded and roadways became treacherous.

The holiday featured at least one miraculous rescue story.

An 87-year-old woman’s car spun off the road and plunged into a flooded creek near Holly Springs on Thursday. Thankfully, Cherokee County firefighter Michael Axford had just left work and he and three other passersby saw the near-death accident. The four good Samaritans got the woman out of the car, and when firefighters arrived, they deployed a 35-foot ladder to help her up the steep bank, authorities said.

Torrential rains in North Georgia prompted Gov. Nathan Deal to declared a state of emergency in Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties.

MARTA experienced delays on all rail lines due to the weather. Service between the Five Points and Oakland City stations was suspended for several hours. MARTA crews finished pumping out water there on Friday morning, and all trains were running on time, said spokesman Lyle Harris.

The weather system spawned two dozen tornadoes in six states from Indiana and Illinois to the Deep South, killing three people in Mississippi, two in Tennessee and one in Arkansas. In total, the storm’s death toll reached more than 14, with scores more injured.

Many people and workers spent much of Christmas Day cleaning up.

Crews in Fayette County were working to rebuild a road caved in by flood waters Thursday, which left about 60 families trapped in their subdivision, according to Channel 2 Action News.

A Christmas cleaning up

Thornton Kennedy II and his son spent Christmas Day up on the roof of their Atlanta home, detangling wires tossed about during Christmas Eve storms.

Craig Burns woke Christmas morning, watched his boy enjoy his new Hulk car crusher, and then headed down to do battle with the flood around his hot water heater. Donning his dirtiest clothes and tying plastic bags around his shoes, he proceeded to extract several inches of water from the crawl space in his East Lake home.

“It’s pretty grimy and slimy down there,” reported Burns, 41.

Friday night he headed to his parents in Griffin for the big holiday dinner, and to borrow their Shop Vac to finish removing the watery mess.

For some, the storms brought a pause to the frantic holiday pace. Michelle Hiskey had been cramming so much into these recent days — shopping, phone calls, gift-wrapping, church services. But as she watched a three-foot-high torrent of water racing through her back yard Thursday, she took a mental step back.

“The flooding on Christmas Eve brought my priorities into focus,” Hiskey said. She added, “The only things I would take out of this place are my kids and dogs.”

The water didn’t penetrate her home near South Peachtree Creek in North DeKalb. But now she’s dreading having to put on her rubber boots and go clean the yard.