Published on 07/18/03

Take flood precautions before waters start to rise

By Lisa Ray, GEMA,
and David Stooksbury
University of Georgia

ATLANTA -- Extremely moist soils, combined with higher-than-normal river and lake levels, make Georgia primed for major flooding. Adding to the concern, the state is in the midst of hurricane season, prompting emergency management officials and climatology experts to encourage Georgians to make flood preparations before the waters start to rise.

According to the National Weather Service, near-record rainfall was recorded for many areas of north and middle Georgia, with south Georgia receiving higher-than-normal rainfall amounts during May and June.

With the hurricane season already off to an active start, these conditions make flooding more likely in the event of a tropical system moving through the Southeast.

Inland flooding

While storm surge remains a primary concern for coastal residents, inland flooding can be a major threat to communities hundreds of miles from the coast as intensive rain falls from huge tropical air masses.

In the past three decades, more people have died of inland flooding than from storm surges. Many of the deaths associated with tropical storms have come in mountainous regions prone to flooding. Thus, even people living and visiting north Georgia need to remain alert to possible flooding.

Intense rainfall isn't directly related to the wind speed of a tropical system. In fact, some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area.

Tropical Storm Alberto is a recent example. A weak storm in terms of wind damage, Alberto caused devastating flooding in west central and southwest Georgia.

The storm's speed affects the amount of rainfall it generates. The faster it moves, the lower the amount of rain.

Prepare now

With prime flooding conditions in place, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency is urging Georgians to make flood preparations now.

"First and foremost, Georgians should review their family safety plans and make sure they have a disaster supplies kit on hand," said GEMA Director Mike Sherberger. "In addition, every family should have a NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) weather radio so that they can receive immediate severe weather and flood warnings."

Home and business owners should also consider purchasing flood insurance, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Floodplain Management Office.

Flood insurance

"A common myth is that flood insurance is only available to those in high risk flood zones," said Collis Brown,Coordinator of the DNR Floodplain Management Unit. "In fact, as long as your community is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can purchase coverage for your home. It is highly recommended that you do so since most homeowner's policies do not cover flood damage."

The typical flood insurance premium in Georgia is less than $500 a year. For properties in low- to moderate-risk flood zones, it can be less than $200 annually.

For more information on hurricane and flood preparation, contact your local emergency management agency or visit GEMA's Web site at Further information on flood insurance is on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site (

(Lisa Ray is the public affairs divison director for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and David Stooksbury is the state climatologist and is located in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Georgia.)

Lisa Ray is the public affairs divison director for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.