25 years later: WALB remembers the Flood of ‘94

25 years later: WALB remembers the Flood of ‘94
A still from the 1994 flood in Albany. (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - A 500 year flood devastated the Good Life City and other areas of Southwest Georgia this week 25 years ago.

The Flood:

On June 30, 1994, the warning for Tropical Storm Alberto was issued. The storm hit Florida on July 3 before moving inland toward Georgia.

[ More from the Flood of ’94 : Alberto effect present after two decades ]

[ More from the Flood of ’94 : Americus remembers the Flood of 1994 ]

The deluge of rain flooded streets, ate away at homes, creeks and dams gave out and bridges were out of sight.

The rainfall forced the Flint River to record levels and when it crested at 23 feet above sea level, thousands of homes, churches and businesses were destroyed.

A still from FloodWatch '94. The still is from video of Downtown Albany.
A still from FloodWatch '94. The still is from video of Downtown Albany. (Source: WALB)
A still from FloodWatch '94. The still is from video of Radium Springs.
A still from FloodWatch '94. The still is from video of Radium Springs. (Source: WALB)

After the flood, Albany leaders told WALB the crisis led to major changes in emergency management.

First responders share their stories of working during the disastrous storm, rescuing people off their roofs.


“This week, we remember the devastating flood of 1994 that took 31 lives, evacuated more than 40,000 people and destroyed countless homes and communities. Too many people lost everything, as 55 counties were declared disaster areas. Let us also remember the generosity and kindness our neighbors showed one another through this tragedy and keep that spirit alive as we honor those we lost 25 years ago.”


Rep. Sanford Bishop


Some were trapped on opposite parts of the city from their families, unable to even talk to them for days.

A person being carried to safety during the Flood of '94.
A person being carried to safety during the Flood of '94. (Source: WALB)

The Oglethorpe Bridge.

Many drive across it every day but 25 years ago when the Flint River flooded, waters reached the top of the bridge and split the city of Albany in two.

A first responder remembers

Sam Allen just started working as a paramedic in Dougherty County. Only seven months on the job, he had no idea what was in store for him.

“My partner, Irving Hall and I, we were the last ambulance that crossed the Oglethorpe Bride. They told us five miles an hour, we hope you make it,” Allen, now the emergency medical services director, said.

Sam Allen, Dougherty County EMS Director (Source: WALB)
Sam Allen, Dougherty County EMS Director (Source: WALB)
Sam Allen just started working as a paramedic in Dougherty County. Only seven months on the job, he had no idea what was in store for him. (Source: WALB)
Sam Allen just started working as a paramedic in Dougherty County. Only seven months on the job, he had no idea what was in store for him. (Source: WALB)

With a critical condition patient in the back of their ambulance, Allen and Hall couldn’t turn around. They had to get him to an open hospital. They rolled down all of the windows, took to the middle of the bridge and didn’t look back.

“We didn’t exactly know what was coming down," Allen recalled. "We knew we were going to have some flooding. We had no idea the magnitude of what was coming down.”

Thousands of South Georgians were left homeless. The flood caused more than $500 million in damages.

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In the midst of the disaster, Allen worked days on end getting people to safety.

His wife was miles away.

“We didn’t have communication back with our families," Allen said. “She was taking care of my three boys. She did a great job because I wasn’t there. I was busy stuck on the East Side.”

Dougherty County EMS Director Sam Allen recounts his time as a first responder during the Flood of 1994. (Source: WALB)
Dougherty County EMS Director Sam Allen recounts his time as a first responder during the Flood of 1994. (Source: WALB)

Out of all of the despair, Allen pointed out, if they hadn’t have gone through the flood 25 years ago, more would have been lost during Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

“And I commend everybody that pulled together and made it happen so everybody was taken care of as best we could," Allen said. "It was a trying time, but we learned a lot of lessons from it.”

Allen said like they prepared for Michael, they’ll continue to prepare for any storms the city may face.

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