GDOT says debris blocking drains caused flooding on downtown connector Friday

ATLANTA — Heavy rain pounded metro Atlanta during Friday evening's commute as severe thunderstorms dumped up to two inches of rain per hour over parts of the area.

The rain left some intersections under water and snarled traffic on the northbound connector as water pooled near Freedom Parkway.

"Two inches of water in about ninety minutes, that's one of those unprecedented storms. They don't come along often," said GDOT spokesperson Natlie Dale.

Just three years ago, on May 31, 2015, another heavy rain event caused parts of the connector to turn into a river.

Dale told Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan its rare that flooding events shut down the highway and the drainage system is built to be able to handle the kind of rain the area saw Friday.

"The structures themselves would be sufficient even to manage this type of storm until you cover the structure," she said.

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In Friday's storm, debris caused two drains to clog. Dale said GDOT sweeps the highway every two weeks and visually inspects the drains for any obstructions, but heavy rain can cause new debris -- like trash and illegal roadside signs -- to quickly rush toward drains.

"Political signs, 'We'll buy your house for you signs,' Coke bottles, and trash bags. It takes very little of that type of debris to clog a drain," she said.

Once that debris gets on top of the drain, the system can't keep up with the amount of water being forced through the smaller, unblocked part of the drain.

Dale said as soon as crews got out to clean the drain, the water on the connector cleared.

She said you can help keep highways like the connector from flooding by not throwing or dumping trash on the side of the road. She also said signs like political signs do not belong on the side of the highway, as well.