Josh Toney was subbing April 19 for the regular mail carrier on a postal route along Madison County rural roads. He has been on the job several months and had typical days making deliveries to several hundred mailboxes. But Friday was far from typical. His vehicle was swallowed by water. And he had to make a quick escape.
Commerce postmaster Chris Mitrisin said Toney, a 1997 Banks County High School graduate and former Marine, took it in stride, maintaining his always even-keel demeanor.
“He called about 12:30 and was really low key and not excited and he said, ‘Sir, there’s a problem with a road. It washed out and my car is gone.’ And I was like ‘your car is gone?’” said Mitrisin.
Toney hit some standing water at about 45 or 50 mph on Mercury Grand Marquis on Duncan Swindle Road.
“It was like I hit a brick wall,” he said.
The flash-flood rains had wiped out the culvert on the Madison County road. And Toney was suddenly in a potentially fatal situation as his car teetered momentarily with the front half in the water and the back half on the roadway.
Toney didn’t panic. He put the car in park, grabbed his scanner and leapt out of the vehicle, which rotated and was soon swept away in the current. The vehicle wasn’t recovered until several hours later over 600 yards from the incident.
Mitrisin said he felt Toney’s military training helped him stay calm and move quickly and efficiently to get out of harm’s way.
“He put the car in park and turned the engine off and when he put it in park it braced the car just enough on the side of the road (to make an escape),” he said.
Toney suffered some soreness but was not injured and he was right back on the job the next day in the vehicle of the route carrier he was subbing for.
“I’ve had worse days,” said Toney of the experience.
Mitrisin said the recovered vehicle included 10 bags of undelivered mail, which he compared to the consistency of wet toilet paper, adding that the Commerce Post Office staff is sifting through the mail to see what is salvageable. He said the route has 596 deliveries and 360 didn’t get their mail Friday. He is planning to send notices to those who didn’t get their deliveries.
Mitrisin said some of the workers at the post office consoled him over all the paperwork he would have over the incident.
“I said, ‘Hey guys, this is a great day, Josh is alive,’” said Mitrisin.
The Madison County mail carrier story was one of many weather-related incidents across north Georgia and the southeast Friday as a massive storm system rolled across the region.
And the 12-member Madison County Rescue Swift Water team was also busy Friday and Saturday rescuing an elderly man and several animals trapped inside his flooded home on Goolsby Road in Carnesville. The man was rescued along with several animals. In a separate incident, Madison County 9-1-1 received a call at 6:30 a.m. Saturday regarding a female trapped in a flooded vehicle on Collins Dudley Road. The Madison County Rescue Swift Water Rescue team responded, along with Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
“Our team goes once a year to North Carolina for training and training on Broad river also though out the year,” said team member Roy Combs. The team members are all part of Madison County Rescue. Others on the team include Marc Perry Jackson Parham, Collin Knight, Gregory Hamilton, Jason Austin, Chandler Austin, Eddie West, Jodie Blackmon, Jason Blalock, Jacob Johnson and Butch McDuffie.
Madison County Cooperative Weather Observer Mark Jenkins said the total in Danielsville Friday was 2.56 inches.
“But (rainfall) ranged from less than an inch near Carlton to radar estimates of over five inches in the northwest corner,” said Jenkins. “The Broad River near Carlton was in moderate flood stage Saturday evening at 25.4 feet which was a rise of nearly 20 feet in 24 hours. The Oconee river at Arcade crested at nearly 25 feet and was just inches from the record.”
Banks Crossing saw massive flooding around Zaxby’s, with rainwater turning into a fast-moving river in the usually bustling shopping area. An online video showed a person casting his fishing pole into the current from the back of a truck.
E-911 Director Brenan Baird said his office fielded about 25 weather-related calls Friday as thunderstorms swept through the county, and at least one tornado warning was issued Friday morning.
Drake Woods, Blacks Creek, Aderhold Rogers and Short Seagraves all suffered damage from the storm.
One of the large, old trees at the historic courthouse in Danielsville also fell during the storms, striking two cars in the parking lot near Edward Jones and The Look Hair Studio.
Baird said despite all the damage, no weather-related injuries were reported. He said the main damages by far, were caused by flooding instead of winds or lightening associated with the storms. There were also no lengthy power outages reported.
Two of four consoles at the 9-1-1 call center were knocked out for a period during a brief power interruption.
“These folks have really worked hard today,” Baird said of his dispatchers.