- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

ATLANTA — Floodwaters that swept across the rain-soaked Southeast killed at least three people and left five others missing Monday, including a Georgia toddler who disappeared after a mobile home was split apart by a swollen creek.

Three Georgia motorists died when their vehicles were swept off Atlanta-area roads, and some major highways were submerged. Officials urged motorists to stay off the roads as a new line of storms threatened the area.

Fast-moving water also swept away a Tennessee man who went swimming in an overflowing ditch on a dare.

Crews in northwest Georgia worked furiously to shore up a levee that had been breached and was in danger of failing along the Chattooga River. Hundreds were evacuated in the small town of Trion, and inmate crews were piling sandbags along the levee wall.

“It’s a grave situation for us,” said Lamar Canada, Chattooga County’s emergency management director.

Forecasters issued flood alerts for parts of Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia as more rain fell after days of storms that have saturated the ground. As many as 20 inches had fallen in three days in parts of the Atlanta area.

School closings and delays occurred in parts of Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama.

The “persistent tropical system” that has been hovering over the region for the last week could dump another four inches on north Georgia overnight Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Frank Taylor. Rains were expected to taper off starting Wednesday.

Rescuers in Tennessee were searching for a Chattanooga man swept into a culvert Sunday after boasting that he could swim across a flooded ditch alongside his house for $5. The man’s nephew identified him as 46-year-old Sylvester Kitchens.

Firefighters rescued another man who also tried to swim the ditch. Albert Miller was found clinging to a fence in the water near where the water empties into the culvert, said Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner. Miller was taken to the hospital with symptoms of hypothermia.

The nephew, 22-year-old Leslie Townsend, said Kitchens was swept away when he tried to grab onto a garden hose that Townsend threw to him.

Emergency workers in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville found a woman dead in her vehicle after it was swept off a road by flooding Monday, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services. The woman was identified as Seydi Burciaga, 39, who was returning home from work.

“In my 22 years in the fire department here in Gwinnett we have not experienced flooding to this degree,” Rutledge said.

West of Atlanta, Douglas County was hit by as much as a foot of rain. Flooding blocked more than 45 roads in the county and caused two deaths in separate accidents. A man’s body was found after his car was swept into a creek, while a woman’s body was found elsewhere after floodwaters washed out the road she was driving on, said county spokesman Wes Tallon. Neither was identified.

Tallon said rescuers were searching for three others who were in the woman’s car.

He said emergency officials have rescued dozens of people stranded in their homes and cars.

“We’re using everything we can get our hands on,” Tallon said. “Everything from boats to Jet Skis to ropes to ladders.”

Authorities in next-door Carroll County scoured the area for a toddler who went missing at around 4 a.m. after the storms dumped more than a foot of rain in the area, said Carroll County Emergency Management Director Tim Padgett.

“I’ve never seen rain like this before — even when a hurricane came through in ‘04,” said Carroll County resident Elizabeth King, adding that a neighbor had water rushing through the yard. “I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’ve lived here my whole life — 35 years.”

In Kentucky, rescue crews went on more than a dozen runs to help stranded people after 4 inches of rain fell on parts of Louisville Sunday, said Louisville fire department spokesman Sgt. Salvador Melendez.

Water rose as high as window-level on some houses in North Carolina’s Polk County, forcing emergency officials to evacuate homes along a seven-mile stretch of road. Flooding in more than 20 counties in western North Carolina closed roads, delayed school and forced evacuations.

Associated Press writers Bill Poovey in Chattanooga, Kate Brumback in Carrollton, Ga., Johnny C. Clark in Trion, Ga., Errin Haines in Atlanta and Randall Dickerson in Nashville contributed to this report.

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