Flooded residents returning home

Published 7:31 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Saturday, many residents who were forced from their homes as flood waters rose began to return to their homes.

Many residents of Slough Loop Road who were hit hard by flooding attended the Decatur County Board of Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday morning to tell their stories.

Clyde Durrell said his family had been displaced by the slough and was unable to return because their home had to be inspected by the County Building Department before power could be turned back on.

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County Planning Director Paul Soudi said homes with water damage had to be inspected for safety and liability reasons. However, Soudi said the county would waive fees for flood-related inspections, and rebate checks were being issued to two Slough Loop residents who had already been inspected Monday.

“The power company had turned off power to the entire neighborhood,” Soudi said. “So now each home has to be reconnected one by one.”

Residents cleaning up from flood damage can also take materials to the county landfills without having to pay a tipping fee, said County Administrator Tom Patton, county officials would request power companies serving Decatur County to waive fees associated with restoring power to flood-damaged homes.

Brenda Solis of 146 Slough Loop Road said that many of the area residents had power restored to their homes starting on April 11 and had begun to move back home. Solis said many local residents are still without water and are forced to bring water from a nearby portable water tank placed their by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) to use restroom facilities and purchase drinking water. She said she had moved in with friends when she was forced to evacuate her home, and was thankful that firefighters had helped her remove several belongings that would have been damaged in the flood.

Flood water reached the top step of her home and left a great deal of area trash in her yard as they receded.

Some homes may end up being declared uninhabitable, in which case Decatur County would request federal government assistance to buy those properties considered a total loss, Patton said.

While some properties may be located on floodplains, homes can still be built on them depending how the structures are situated, Soudi said.

But federal buyouts of the worst-damaged properties would mean no homes could rebuilt on them again, Patton said.

State requests aid

On April 10, Gov. Sonny Perdue requested a presidential disaster declaration, which would allow for federal aid for Georgia counties that were hit hard by severe weather and flood damage.

“The recent floods in South Georgia have adversely impacted the lives of many Georgians,” said Perdue. “The requested disaster funding will help residents, businesses and local governments recover from this disaster and rebuild their lives.”

Preliminary damage assessment information was provided to Perdue from local, state and federal assessment teams—GEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as local officials. Initial damage assessments across the state revealed that more than 600 homes were damaged in the string of severe weather that had passed through Georgia since March 27, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“Damage assessments completed to date confirm that damage from the flooding left hundreds of Georgians in need of assistance,” said GEMA Director Charles English. “Our agency will continue working with local emergency officials to provide needed state resources and pursue available federal assistance.”

Decatur County was one of the 16 Georgia counties that were included in the Governor’s State of Emergency orders, and as of April 10, 17 more counties were added to the list—which reported disruptions to roads, bridges, drainage systems, waste treatment facilities and other crucial infrastructure.

Perdue requested individual assistance programs for 18 of the counties, including Decatur County. The programs include funding for the individuals and households program, disaster unemployment assistance, crisis counseling, disaster legal services and Small Business Administration disaster loans.

Duane Bradford, a public information officer with FEMA, said the maximum amount that can be provided in individual assistance by FEMA is $30,300, although it is rare for a recipient to receive the maximum amount.

Perdue requested public assistance programs for 37 of the counties that include Baker, Mitchell and Miller counties. The programs provide funding for debris removal, emergency protective measures, roads and bridges, water control facilities, building and equipment, utilities and parks and recreational facilities.

Decatur County was not in the initial list of areas the governor requested federal public assistance, money which could be used by local governments to clean up debris, fix roads and bridges and perform more comprehensive flood relief. However, Decatur County could be added to that list pending more damage assessment, according to Decatur County Emergency Management Agency Charlie McCann and a GEMA spokesperson.