Rescue saves child from creek

By Justin Reedy and Clinging to a tree limb in a rain-engorged creek, 12-year-old Rashad Roney felt his strength ebbing when he was plucked to safety by three Clayton County rescuers late Tuesday afternoon.

"I was about to let go when they came," Roney said.

The miraculous rescue came on the day the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill blew through the Southern Crescent, dropping several inches of rain and inconveniencing local residents and workers.

The storm system, which was downgraded to a tropical depression as it moved further inland, had caused between 1 ? and 3 inches of rain around metro Atlanta by Tuesday afternoon and was expected to drop another inch of rain before leaving the area.

Despite the heavy rainfall, the storm system caused mostly minor "nuisance" flooding in Clayton and Henry counties and the rest of north Georgia, according to Jim Noel, surface hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Clayton County firefighter Ron Maddox, who along with fellow firefighter Paul LaRocca and Lt. Jeff McHenry rescued Roney, said, "The outcome couldn't have been better."

When a call went out of a possible drowning in a small creek near Hunter's Ridge mobile home park in Lovejoy, the three firefighters rushed to the scene and began searching for Roney.

Less than 15 minutes later they found him and Maddox waded in to the surging water to pull him out.

Roney said that a friend and he had been swinging on a rope over the creek and when it was his turn to swing he fell.

"I tried to swim but the current was too strong," Roney said.

He managed to grab the limb and hold on while his friend ran to get help. About 30 minutes after the incident Roney, at home said his chest hurt and he had a headache.

"I pretty much don't want to take a bath again. I've been in enough water," Roney said.

The rainfall from Tropical Depression Bill caused a spate of traffic accidents in Clayton County and other metro Atlanta areas, but no major flooding or storm damage had been reported, according to Capt. Jeff Turner, spokesman for the county Police Department.

The rainfall metro Atlanta received from this system was "about what we can handle" without seeing major flooding, Noel said, even though the ground has been saturated by above-average rainfall over the last several weeks. That's because there's more plants and other vegetation in the summertime, Noel said, which helps slow down storm water runoff and stave off flooding.

Major rainfall from the tropical system was expected to taper off Tuesday evening and into the night, with some scattered showers expected today, Noel said. Skies will be mostly clear on Thursday and Friday, he added, with only a slight chance of isolated afternoon showers as the area returns to a normal summer weather pattern.

This has been a very wet year for metro Atlanta residents. Prior to Bill's arrival, more than 33 inches of rain had fallen at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, putting the city nearly six inches above normal for the year.

Though the wet weather pattern has helped erase a drought that stretched on for more than three years, it has wreaked havoc on outdoor planting this year. People trying to grow both gardens and other plants have had trouble because of the excessive rainfall, according to Daniel Dorsey, owner of Dorsey's Nursery & Garden Center in Lovejoy.

"A lot of people couldn't get in to turn their gardens up before planting, so some people got their gardens in late or just didn't do them at all," Dorsey said. "This rain on plants really hurts them, too. It drowns them n they can't get oxygen because the roots are surrounded by water."

Excessive rainfall in the metro area has also hurt the local construction industry, since many outdoor construction projects have to shut down when storm clouds roll in. When heavy rain hits a job site, it can close the project for two or three days while the ground dries out, according to Russ Ardillo, vice president of pre-construction services at Group VI Construction in Peachtree City.

"It's affected our jobs immensely," said Ardillo, whose firm handles construction projects in the Southern Crescent and the rest of metro Atlanta. "This year, we've probably lost 30 days to six weeks on every job."

The company plans for some rainfall, Ardillo said, but this year has outstripped all expectations. The average number of rain days expected in June in Atlanta is about four, he explained, but last month they had 16 rain days.

That lost time, which puts off future projects, could mean millions of dollars in lost revenue for just one construction firm. Group VI, for instance, has billed about 35 percent fewer hours of work to projects this year, Ardillo said, and typically has about $45-50 million in projects each year.

In addition, construction workers for many engineering firms and contractors are hourly employees, so when rain shuts down a job site they're out of work and not getting paid. When you combine the effects of the recession with the inclement weather, Ardillo said, this has been a bad year for the construction industry.

Ed Brock