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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Natural Disaster

Brooks Blanton

Atlanta, GA

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Atlanta Family Flees Flooded Home

September 22, 2009 - 2:55 PM | by: Brooks Blanton

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue asked President Obama to declare 17 counties in his state a federal disaster area as flood waters start to recede today.  Some locations in the northern and central part of the state, including parts of metro Atlanta, received up to 20 inches of rain in 36 hours causing massive flooding not seen here in at least 16 years.  Eight people died in the flood waters, one a two year old boy who was ripped from his mothers arms in West Georgia.  Trees weakened from the soaked grounds fell, taking down power lines and leaving up to 50,000 homes in the dark.  School districts ordered students to stay home as many roads and freeways remained impassable this morning.

The driving rains on Monday overwhelmed drainage systems and sent rivers and creeks over their banks after the ground, saturated with seven days of steady rains, could absorb no more.  The deluge of water overwhelmed the City of Atlanta and brought traffic to a halt on bridges, streets and metro freeways during the heart of the afternoon rush hour.  One man had to be rescued from the hood of his car as flood waters turned the busy I-75/85 downtown connector freeway into a massive river, a scene that played out all over the city.  Today sections of Interstate 20 west of the city near Six Flags Amusement Park are still closed after the Chattahoochee River overtook the freeway.  Aerial shots of the area from helicopters show several massive roller coasters standing in feet of water.

Linda and Joe Mezza evacuated with their three boys Monday afternoon as nearby Peachtree Creek swallowed their Northwest Atlanta home.  They have lived here for nine years and have seen flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms that moved inland, but say they have never seen anything like this.  It wasn’t long before the creek, which is about 100 feet behind their house, was completely surrounding them.

“When we left yesterday afternoon at about two o’clock, the backyard was fully flooded, the basement was flooded,” Joe Mazzeo said.  ”I had about eight to ten inches of water in my lower level and we had to wade out through the front yard just to get out.”

They returned to their neighborhood this morning, but could only survey the damage from a neighbors hilltop home across the street while several feet of water and mud engulfed their house.  An ominous dark line marked the level of the invading water and mud to the main story of their house.  They can only imagine what, if anything, is salvageable today.

“It’s going to be a lot of mess and it’s one of those things that kept me awake last night because I remembered the things that I hadn’t gotten off the main floor,”  Linda Mazzeo said perched on a hill staring at her flood ravaged house.  ”You know our wedding album was there and when I remembered that, I was very upset.”

The Mazzeo family is staying in a nearby hotel and are realistic that they won’t be able to move back for quite some time.  Meantime, they are taking inventory, moving what belongings they can and looking for a rental house to call home while insurance adjusters survey the damage.

Meantime, skies are clearing over Atlanta today as water from the Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek retreats.  Blue skies are a welcome site for rain-weary residents who haven’t seen the sun for days.  Forecasters are calling for chances of rain this week, but nothing like the deadly rains that threatened this city just one day ago.

“I hope it doesn’t, I don’t wish the rain on anybody, but it doesn’t rain anymore around here,” Linda Mazzeo says standing in a yard covered in mud and muck.  ”Maybe a little rain will knock off some of this mud.  I hope the creek will just stay down and keep flowing into the Chattahoochee.”

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