The first week of May 2003 was wet. It rained often, and it often rained hard. During a 3-day period from May 5 through May 7, several inches of rain fell across North and Central Georgia...especially in western and extreme northern counties. Some locations, like Troup and southern Meriwether Counties saw almost a foot of rain.
Since soils were already saturated from previous rainfall, there was a lot of run-off...more than is usually seen so late in the spring season. (Georgia's peak "spring flood season" runs from February to mid-April.) This resulted in rapid rises on many of the small streams in the western half of North and Central Georgia. Many overflowed their banks. One example is in Bartow County (see images below) where water spilled onto driveways and roads. Another example is in Whitfield County (see images below), where we see a larger stream (Coahulla Creek) overflowing it's banks.
All run-off found it's way into main rivers. Record flooding occurred on the Chickamauga near the Tennessee border. Moderate flooding was noted on several other rivers, including the Flint River near Culloden, the Conasauga near Tilton, Sweetwater Creek near Austell, and the Chattahoochee River at West Point.
At West Point the river crested at 23.2 feet, more than 4 feet above flood stage, shortly after midnight Thursday night (May 8). This is the highest level since February 26, 1961 when the river rose to 24.9 feet. However, the situation would have been much worse had West Point Dam not been able to control the high flow of water coming downstream. The Army Corp of Engineers calculated the peak flow at 170,000 cubic feet per second. If this flow had not been abated by the dam, it is estimated that the river at West Point would have risen to around 34 feet.
At Columbus, the Chattahoochee crested near 40 feet at noon Friday (May 9). This is the highest water levels seen since 41.4 feet on March 17, 1990 and this exceeded the 38.5 foot level recorded in 1971.
At Culloden, the Flint crested at 24.9 feet at 3 pm Friday (May 9). Flood stage is 18 feet.
At Tilton, the Conasauga crested at 26.7 feet at 11 am Friday (May 9). Flood stage is 18 feet.
At Austell, Sweetwater Creek crested at 14.6 feet at 1 am Thursday (May 8). Flood stage is 10 feet.