ROSWELL, Ga. — Officials are warning that the Chattahoochee River has already breached its banks with days of rain ahead.
Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Katie Walls is in Roswell, where the river is already swollen because of releases of water from Lake Lanier.
Two things can raise the river levels: heavy rain and releases from Buford Dam on Lake Lanier.
For the last six months, the Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water downstream from the lake because of high water.
But with the Chattahoochee at flood stage and rain on the way, neighbors along the river are worried. Walls says over a half a foot of rain is expected in the next few weeks.
"It’s virtually impossible to get a boat or kayak on the river right now because the flows are so high they’re actually dangerous," Jason Ulseth with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper said.
Walls met Ulseth at Don White Memorial Park in Roswell, where the boat ramp is already an island and picnic tables are underwater.
The river is currently flowing about 12 times higher than it does normally just from lake water being drained from the lake.
The Army Corps says it will take extra steps to prevent flooding.
On Friday, officials said they will stop releasing the extra water from Lake Lanier.
Walls talked to Chris Lovelady, with the Army Corps, about the struggle to manage the water levels.
"With continued rainfall and significant rainfall through the wintertime, every opportunity we get to bring down the rain just brings it right back up again," Lovelady said.
But residents aren't just worried about flooding. Officials said 10.5 million gallons of raw sewage have flowed into the river in the last few months due to heavy rain.
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Flushable wipes were still hanging from tree branches off Azalea Drive and Riverside Drive after the spills.
Ulseth told Walls the sewer line that runs parallel to the Chattahoochee has been a problem for years, especially when it rains.
"Stormwater actually makes its way into the sewer line and overwhelms the system," Ulseth said. "And when it rains enough, we get millions of gallons of raw sewage poured into the river."
Walls called Fulton County Public Works Director David Clark and asked how they plan to fix the problem.
Clark said crews are raising manholes higher above flood stage. Some have already been raised and others will be in the spring. Crews are also lining the sewer lines so water can't enter through the cracks.
Ulseth says the county and the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper are working together to increase how much the sewers can hold and decrease the number of spills. But more work needs to be done.
"They are still at a place where if we get enough rain, 2, 3, 4 inches of rain in a short period of time, we're still having spills," Ulseth said.
Once the river returns to normal and no rain is forecast, Lovelady says the big water releases will begin again to make room for the next big rain.
Ulseth warns anybody using the river this spring to be aware that levels could stay high well after the rain ends.
Cox Media Group