Thursday, September 24, 2009

24 SEP 09: Overflow Room

A web site named Gawker focuses on gossip about entertainment and politics. But Wednesday brought proof gawking is NOT confined simply to New York and Los Angeles. It happens in our area, too - only we have to watch for natural disasters, since Mayor Jim Wetherington's wife simply does not shop enough to make news.

The gawking was obvious during a section of my morning run, which had to be moved to the 13th Street Bridge. Drivers to my left seemed to go up the incline from the Phenix City side slowly - and I concluded the reason had to be the high river level to their right, because I wasn't dressed outlandishly at all.

My morning jog had a detour to the 13th Street Bridge because the Phenix City Riverwalk was closed. And of course, the closure was due to flood water moving down the Chattahoochee River from Atlanta. You know what they say - when one floodgate opens, another one closes.

(All six floodgates were open at West Point Dam Wednesday afternoon - but only four out of 33 are open at Lake Oliver. People in a sophisticated city like Columbus know how to hold their water....)

The closing of the Phenix City Riverwalk also meant the parking lot behind the new Russell County Courthouse was off-limits. But the county commission meeting went on as scheduled. Better to risk flooded cars at the new building, than drips from a leaky roof at the old one.

The Phenix City Amphitheater's stage was an island surrounded by water when I jogged by it at 8:30 a.m. By late afternoon, it was covered with water from the rising Chattahoochee River. If someone had acted quickly, Phenix City could have scheduled its own version of Aqua-palooza.

Concern about gawking expanded during the afternoon, as the Columbus city manager announced the Dillingham Street Bridge would be closed to cars. Isaiah Hugley told the Ledger-Enquirer foot traffic still would be allowed, but discouraged - since we all know very few local residents wear old-fashioned "boat shoes" these days.

The city manager explained there's NO structural problem with the Dillingham Street Bridge. The closure is because slow-moving drivers staring at the river cause traffic problems. Imagine the scare those drivers would get after crossing into Columbus - turning right on Front Avenue, and seeing large military vehicles parked for the National Warfighting Conference.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We stopped by the Warfighting Conference Wednesday, and will have some thoughts about it this weekend.)

Isaiah Hugley also announced the entire Columbus Riverwalk would be closed until further notice. I read this online, hurried to Golden Park at 4:45 p.m. - and found NO flooding on that section of the Riverwalk yet. But things could be different later today. The water could be higher -- and crowds may show up for the traditional tossing of rocks from the railroad track.

While the Columbus city manager alerted the news media to the bridge and Riverwalk closures, the city web site still didn't mention them Wednesday night. Instead, there was a message from Marshal Greg Countryman about "community policing." That's nice - but can he match the police department's ten new beats?

But I digress: a WRBL news team was warned away from the riverbank in downtown Columbus because "water moccasins" were jumping out of the Chattahoochee. If we can have a hockey team named the Cottonmouths, you'd think someone would start a Water Moccasin swim club.

Back up the river, flooding receded across the Atlanta area Wednesday. A closed section of Interstate 20 reopened. Rides at Six Flags Over Georgia were more visible. And Lake Lanier was within 3.1 feet of a full summer pool - which may have prompted half of Atlanta to take tub baths in celebration.

Since we sort of promise at the top of the page to comment on "the flow of the river," West Point Dam currently is releasing 50,000 cubic feet of water per second. So if you drive to West Point today with a few empty five-gallon jugs, I don't think the park rangers will mind very much....

Some people say they can't remember the last time the Chattahoochee River was so high in Columbus. That's why we're here to help - as the Riverwalk also was covered in the spring of 2003 [13 May 03]. But the Dillingham Street Bridge was NOT closed at that time. Uptown Columbus Inc. needed every visitor it could find.

WLTZ's Pat Walker noted Wednesday night Columbus has received 52.3 inches of rain so far this year. That's 15 inches more than normal -- and it's still warm enough that people who relied on rain to fill their backyard swimming pools can enjoy them.

Given what's happened in the last few days, perhaps this e-mail Wednesday from Columbus state Rep. Richard Smith shouldn't have come as a surprise:

The Special Subcommittee on Adequate Water Supply scheduled for Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm at the Iron Works is being POSTPONED.

I will keep you posted when the meetings are rescheduled.

Part of me wonders if a late-season tropical storm will mean no meetings at all - and perhaps the disbanding of the subcommittee.

Let's shift now to some drier Wednesday topics....

+ The Muscogee County School District announced it's receiving a Defense Department grant to build a library of podcasts. What could be more inspiring than to hear the Fort Benning Commander personally read his weekly column in "The Bayonet?"

+ Berry Plastics on Eighth Avenue announced an expansion which will result in 25 new jobs. The company makes plastic drinking cups for restaurant chains such as Subway - which tells me the $100,000 Scrabble game piece has to be waiting for me somewhere around here.

+ A judge in Birmingham cleared the way for an auction today of 19 cars owned by former HealthSouth executive Richard Scrushy. The collection includes a Bentley and a Rolls-Royce - which tells me Scrushy had a salary so high, he didn't have to worry about fuel economy.

+ Atlanta's baseball team announced manager Bobby Cox will retire after next season. Cox has managed in Atlanta SO LONG that some newspaper employees probably think he's one of the owners.

(Trivia time - do you remember the man Bobby Cox replaced as Atlanta manager in 1990? It was Russ Nixon, who complained at the time he wasn't given a fair chance to succeed. Yet unlike the baseball players, Nixon never sued on grounds of collusion when no other team took him.)

+ The College Football Hall of Fame announced it will move to Atlanta from South Bend, Indiana. The managers apparently want to be surrounded by winning teams again.

+ The University of Georgia athletics board approved a new six-year contract to play the Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville. Coach Mark Richt suggested the series be played in Atlanta every other year -- which tells me he hasn't checked the small size of the Georgia Dome parking lot.

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