Atlanta, Georgia

Historical Floods

Residents of the Atlanta area know all too well that heavy rains and hurricanes are a significant threat to the city. The state of Georgia averages 45-75 inches of rain per year, and with over 200 dams, one would think flooding is a serious concern. Flooding in the Atlanta area can be caused by four major factors: flash floods, heavy rainfall, river overflow, and dam or levee failure. Surprisingly, major flooding in Atlanta has not been much of a concern to Atlanta locals. That is until 2009 when heavy rainfall caused flash flooding that caused record-breaking damage.

2009 Atlanta Floods

In 2009, several states in the United States were affected by a group of floods, most commonly known as the South Eastern United states floods. The areas which experienced the floods are Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas. However, the most affected area was Atlanta, Georgia. The floods wreaked havoc and caused massive destruction of properties and even several deaths, and were therefore declared a natural disaster. The damages caused by the floods were estimated to be around $500 million, around the state of Georgia. Thus, in this post, we will look at these notorious historical floods in Atlanta, Georgia, and how they resulted in extreme flood damage. But before that, what caused the floods?


On September 15th, 2009, the Atlanta area started experiencing rainfall, whereas the National Weather Service reported that the rainfall was 0.4 inches on that day. However, the rains began to intensify and inundate the area on September 19th. The NWS station, which was located at the Atlanta Airport, reported that there were 3.70 inches of rainfall from morning to 8 pm. This doubled the initial rainfall record on that day. However, other monitoring stations were said to have recorded 5 inches of rainfall.

Chattahoochee River

The highest rise in water levels was experienced at the river. The surge was the highest since the Burfom Dam was built. Moreover, this was a record second rise in water levels at the river in a record 100 year period and would have surpassed that record set in 1916, were it not for the impoundment built along the river in the 1950s. This massive rise in water level led to the river bursting through its tributaries, Peachtree Creek and Nancy Creek, into homes and businesses.

Lake Lanier and Allatoona

Another thing was the intense rising of water level at Lake Lanier. At the same time, Lake Allatoona soared to a massive three meters, and for the first time, used its water reservation capacity since the Southern US drought of 2006-2009. This was Lake Allatoona’s highest level of water rise since 1990. The increase in water levels of the two lakes led to massive flooding around the respective areas, with extensive flood damage.

Sweetwater Creek

Another factor contributing to this natural disaster was the highest rise ever in the water level at the Sweetwater Creek on Monday, September 21st. However, on September 22nd, the most significant flow ever on Sweetwater Creek was recorded at 28000 cubic feet per second. Moreover, the Sweet Creek flooding merged with the swollen Chattahoochee River and, for two days, blocked the Interstate 20 in west Atlanta. This caused many homes and businesses within the area to be extremely submerged.

Government Intervention

After seeing how the floods were getting out of hand, Sonny Perdue, the Georgia governor, declared a state of emergency. Furthermore, the governor requested the US government assistance on Disaster restoration for the affected counties within Georgia, which were 17 in number. Though state military personnel were instructed to stay on high alert following the governor’s declaration to help in the disaster restoration and flood damage control, no reports were indicated. Therefore, on September 24th, President Barrack Obama, as requested by the Georgia governor, Sonny Perdue, approved the declaration for the Federal Disaster for all the 17 Georgia Counties.

Botton Line

These notorious historical floods in Atlanta, Georgia, caused extreme water damage and destruction to the entire Georgia State before they were finally controlled. At least ten people lost their lives, and several others were injured during this natural disaster. Moreover, inside the Georgia city, several neighborhoods and infrastructure were submerged by the floods. However, there was good coordination between the government and other humanitarian organizations, which led to quick disaster restoration.