I can't believe it has been 10 years since the Great Flood because I remember it so well. I was scheduled for surgery that week and spent a rainy Monday at the hospital in Macon getting pre-op tests run. Sometime that afternoon, all non-emergency surgeries in the city were canceled. It would be almost a year before I underwent that surgery but that's a whole other story.
The Ocmulgee River, which runs through Macon, rose to record levels, flooding the Macon-Bibb County Water Authority's treatment plant east of the city. Customers, including my family, were without running water for three weeks. Even now, thinking that a major city, one of the largest in the state, was actually without running water that long is mind-boggling.
The military and fire departments set up water distribution centers in parking lots and fire stations around the city. My kids, who were young teenagers then, helped hand out water at our neighborhood station.
I was working as a reporter in Jones and Twiggs counties, which never lost their water supply. Through my work contacts, my house always had water, albeit not from the tap. Do you have any idea what it is like to have to fill the back of a toilet just to flush and to do it for a family of six? Man, the water we must have gone through. No one else had it any better, though. If you went to Wal-Mart to shop, you couldn't use their toilets either.
But whenever I think about the flood, I always think about what happened in Gray, where I worked. The mayor at the time, Jimmy Roberts, owned a combination convenience store and laundromat that he operated with the help of his beautiful, sweet and oh-so-Southern wife, Frances. Her sweetness, I always thought, was topped only by her mother-in-law, Sarah Roberts.
Anyway, Miss Frances was running the store when a woman from Macon came in from the laundry side to complain that a machine took her money. Remember, we had no running water for three weeks and tempers were as high as the July weather. Heated words were exchanged and Jimmy came in from his store office to see what was going on. The disagreement was then between him and the woman. Somehow, the woman ended up in a physical scuffle with Jimmy, whose hand was near her mouth.
Well, she saw her chance and she took it she bit him. She ended up biting the tip of one of his fingers off and he had to get treatment. She was arrested and charged. It is funny that I don't remember how the case was disposed of. I entered the story in a Georgia Press Association newspaper contest and won. Pretty cool. I also got an award from the Woodmen of the World for my newspaper coverage of the flood in Jones County.
I can understand how she got upset, though. We were all in the same boat. I had to take my laundry either to Jones or Twiggs counties to do a wash. It wasn't too bad because I knew people in both counties. I am sure I got news stories every time I ventured out of Macon. I know I wrote a column about it.
I also remember going out on Interstate 75, which also runs through Macon, just to see that it was closed. It was flooded, too, and no cars could travel through. It was awesome, not something you see every day.
I have had a fascination/fear of floods going back to childhood. When we lived in St. Louis, my family's favorite activity was to pile in the car on a Saturday night and ride around Creve Coeur Lake. After that, we'd stop at the Lackland Dairy, get soft serve ice cream cones and pick up the Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the paper I always thought I would write for someday. There were signs all around the lake cautioning motorists to not drive through standing water. The lake frequently flooded the surrounding roads and you never knew how deep the water was. I was petrified by daredevil father would try to take on a flooded road and we'd all drown.
Ten years. Man, seems like last week. Glad it wasn't.
Kathy Jefcoats covers public safety for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.