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Hurricane Dennis floods areas of Clayton County

By Ed Brock

Standing under their umbrellas, Pat and Cindy May watched the trailer park where they live fill with water from Jester's Creek.

"This is worse than in '94 (when the remnants of Hurricane Opal passed over Georgia)," said Cindy May.

Hurricane Dennis came ashore in Florida with less force than expected on Sunday, but by Monday it was showing it still had enough strength left to wreak at least a little havoc in Clayton County and the rest of Georgia.

More than 8 inches of rain fell in parts of west Georgia, with about 6 inches in the metro Atlanta area. By 8 a.m. Monday 4.9 inches of rain had fallen in Clayton County.

The storms drove a fairly skinny path up the state, following a south-to-north path roughly mirroring Interstate 75. About 60 miles east of Atlanta, in Athens, less than an inch of rain fell.

They claimed one life when a poplar tree crashed through the Decatur home of 35-year-old Edward Timmons, killing him instantly.

Thousands of people lost power around the state, including a total of 15,000 in Clayton County at different times between midnight and noon Monday, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright.

There were trees down around the county, Clayton County Fire Chief Alex Cohilas said, including one that fell onto a house near Woolsey Road in the south end of the county. The severe weather began around 10 p.m. Sunday and by Monday emergency workers had to evacuate 14 people from the May's trailer park, Tara Manufactured Home Community on Museum Circle off Tara Boulevard near Jonesboro and 50 to 60 people from Edmondson Mobile Home Park outside Riverdale.

"Of course we had a couple of residents who refused to leave. They chose to ride it out," Cohilas said. "They were advised of the hazards."

Pat and Cindy May chose to stay.

"We're on a hill," Cindy May said.

Dick and Diane Stadler were a little closer to the creek and the rising water.

"It came within an inch of coming into the house," Dick Stadler said. "I didn't think (the line of storms) was ever going to stop. It was like 150 miles of rain."

In fact the swirling brown waters of Jester's Creek were flowing under the Stadler's trailer as nearby children rode bicycles through the flood.

"If it comes up closer we're out of here," Stadler said.

During Opal's downpours the water rose to a foot and a half inside the Stadlers' home.

At one point Monday morning a woman called Clayton County police to report that she saw somebody near the swollen Flint River at Flint River Road and Kendrick Road and then that person disappeared, perhaps into the river, Clayton County Police Maj. Tim Robinson. Officers began searching by boat and with lookouts on a bridge over the river downstream from where the person supposedly went in, but nobody was found, Robinson said. Investigators would look out for reports of missing persons, he added.

Dennis is only the first hurricane of what meteorologists are predicting to be a busy season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted 12 to 15 tropical storms for this season, including seven to nine hurricanes with three to five of those being major hurricanes.

It is above average activity that continues a trend that began in 1995, according to the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. Surface temperatures on the Atlantic Ocean and increased activity in the inner tropical convergence zone are contributing to the busy season, NWS meteorologist Steve Nelson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.