Dam Break in Georgia

“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away…”   Song of Solomon 8:7


dam break in georgia

On November 6, 1977, 176 million gallons of water plowed its way from a broken earthen dam to a narrow gorge. Between the dam and the gorge lay Toccoa Falls, a 186 foot drop into a small canyon. It is said that the water may have raged over the falls at 150 miles per hour! Once inside the gorge, the funneled wall of water reached 30 feet high, moving between 30 – 60 miles per hour.  Between the volume and the velocity of the swiftly moving water, the flood decimated a college campus, killing 39 people, half of which were young children.

This amazing story of the Toccoa Falls Dam break in November of 1977  is chronicled in the small book Dam Break in Georgia by K. Neill Foster.  This short read is amazing not because it tells the story of the horrific events of that forsaken tragedy, but because it tells the story of how a community of Christian believers responded to that calamitous event.

I picked up this book in a thrift store in Dahlonega, Georgia, not far from where the tragedy took place. Recognizing the cover, I thumbed the book and immediately came across the letter  from Rosalynn Carter, who visited the disaster site within hours of its happening.  What I read in this short letter made me take pause:

“The miracle of Toccoa Falls confirms what I believe.  God loves us and will help us always.  He gives us unlimited strength when we trust in Him.”

letter from Mrs. Carter


Today, would our First Lady make such heart-felt comments about faith in God?  I immediately bought the book and started reading.

The pages, while filled with the narratives of so many of the flood victims, told another story:  Faith in Jesus Christ gave each person an other-worldly peace in the face of death and tragedy.  One married student lost his wife and small child.  His response?  “My greatest responsibility as a husband was to see my family come to faith in Christ.  My family knew Jesus.  They are with the Lord (104). ”  Another mother who lost her infant child whom she was grasping tightly in her arms as the raging waters swept them both away said this, “God gave us Jaimee long enough to teach us how to love one another (122).” Finally, and the most difficult to imagine, was the man who lost his wife and four of his five children in the flood!  He responded like so many of the other victims, by singing and giving thanks unto the Lord!

As I read page after page, the message was loud and clear:  Absolute trust and faith in God is the most important thing a person will ever do!!

falls enhanced

As Orthodox Christians, we are taught that Christ trampled down death by death when He willingly died on the cross.  We believe that death has lost its sting, because Christ enabled us to join with Him in His heavenly kingdom.  Do I live every day like these Christians of Toccoa Falls College?  No!  But, I need to and their faith teaches me even today, almost 4o years later.

Of course, we had to visit the site of this great flood and see it for ourselves.  Today, you will see life and love and activity all around this campus and the falls.



a photo shoot at the falls


families visiting the falls


If you can get your hands on this short read, I would encourage you to do it.  It will change the way you think about faith.



clouds 2

Clouds are the spice of our outdoor lives.  Clouds bring shade on ridiculously hot summer days.  They bring rain sometimes.  They bring interest and color to your day as you gaze upon them from your yard.  They give you a medium to work with to imagine monsters and animals in their cotton ball – like shapes.  In spring, they move quickly along with the wind.  In fall, they rush upon you in a front of cool air.  

What if every single day was filled with just blue skies?  That would be the most boring thing! 

This spring, when I discovered that my 3rd grader would be studying weather, I got excited and remembered a cloud poster we had stashed away that labeled the various cloud formations.  We studied it. And that was it.  Clouds had become boring!  How could this be?  Then, an idea came…

 Hey, we can paint the clouds, I thought.  I love clouds portrayed in art.   With acrylic there is the texture; with watercolor there is the softness.  But, wait!  That’s a whole lot harder than it looks.  People like Winslow Homer and Renoir paint clouds.  This will be over our heads.  Then, I recalled a recipe for making shaving cream paint.  Shaving cream paint actually goes on and dries puffy and textured.  You can also add any variety of color to it. That would be an interesting approach for these various cloud  types we’ve been studying, like cumulonimbus and stratocumulus.  Painting the various cloud formations may actually help us to associate the cloud type with the shape, I thought.  Possibly, we might remember that association  a few months from now. 

Use your typical shaving cream

 As it turned out, painting the clouds with the shaving cream paint was really fun. The colors turned out beautiful .  Working with textured paint helped us to develop the cloud shapes in our minds and connect that shape with its altitude and name.  Adding tempera color gave a softness and richness to the picture.

eight cloud types

And now, a month later as we are driving along, my son will say, “Look at the cumulonimbus clouds mom!”  And I will say “You are a cloud-boss! What a great memory!”

Here’s how we did the project.

First, we washed an 8 1/2 x 11 water color weight paper with sky blue water color paint and let that dry.  The next day, we mixed up the shaving cream paint.  I started with a Styrofoam tray and sprayed some shaving cream, about a cup.  Then, I mixed in about a teaspoon and a half of white school glue.  That was stirred, and divided into four piles for four different colors. For light grey, we used a couple of drops of black and stirred.  You can add more black or mix in a little blue for a tint change.  We had a darker acrylic blue paint and added a few drops of that to one pile.  We kept a white pile and made a darker grey pile.

the paint

Next, we divided the painted water color paper evenly into 8 spaces.  Each space would be painted a different cloud type.  I told my 9 year old to select which 8 cloud types he wanted to paint, and he, in pencil, wrote the name of the cloud at the top of each space.  We used the cloud types poster that I mentioned above as a guide.  We also consulted with our science book and a library book on clouds.  As you can see in the picture, we had the visual resources sitting right in our workspace.

Then, the paining began.

painting clouds


eight cloud typesIt was a fun project!  I hope we can try this with some other science topics next year.  As a tip, definitely use a sturdy paper, like water color or Bristol paper.  Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try.