By Kathy Jefcoats
Jonesboro and Lovejoy residents live high and dry compared to the rest of Clayton County, but being situated on a ridge isn't a guarantee of protection against flood waters, officials say.
A recent AAA Consumer Pulse survey revealed that only six percent of Georgians fear flood damage, but most homes are at risk of sustaining thousands of dollars in damage from rising waters. The same survey shows that most residents know their homeowners insurance won't cover flood damage, but more than half don't carry flood protection.
AAA Auto Club South Senior Insurance Manager Marge Engleman said the cost of insurance is far outweighed by the damage a flood can create for a homeowner.
"Flood insurance can be as little as $129 a year, and can save consumers thousands in the long run," said Engleman. "Throughout the past 10 years, the average flood claim has been roughly $48,000."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency maps out flood plains, but Clayton County Water Authority officials play a large role in identifying possible trouble areas, and keeping residents informed where rising waters may endanger property. Clayton Stormwater Utility Manager Kevin Osbey said it is essential for developers to know the flood risks before building anywhere.
"Anyone can find out if their property is in a flood plain," said Osbey. "If it backs up to a stream, it is probably in a flood plain. But anytime you get a whole lot of water at one time, there is a risk of flooding, no matter where you are."
One area Osbey keeps an eye on when the forecast calls for rain, is along the Flint River corridor. The river flows between Ga. 85 and Tara Boulevard, northeast of Riverdale. There is also a mobile home park off Tara, near Museum Circle, that is prone to flooding, he said.
When fast, heavy rains wreaked havoc in 2009, parts of Riverdale Road were under water, too. "That's a hot spot," said Osbey. "I know that for a fact, because I saw that with my own eyes."
No one has been able, yet, to stop the rain, let alone rising waters, but Osbey said the county has adopted building ordinances to help make structures as protected as possible in case of floods. Also, officials work to ensure that the simple act of moving dirt around doesn't affect the natural flow of rain into bodies of water, and not someone's basement.
"Homes must be built with mechanical devices, and electrical panels, at least three feet above the base flood elevation," he said.
The Clayton Water Authority is also working to update a decades-old flood study to take into account new construction. "There has been a lot of new development in Clayton County, even drastic changes, in just the last 20 years," said Osbey. "All that changes the hydrology of the land."
Homeowners can access the county's web site at ccwa.us, for more information, or call the water authority, at (770) 961-2130.