Flood damage toll climbs to $1.4 million

After further review, damage from the Christmas Eve snowstorm that struck Gilmer County has been increased from $1.2 million to $1.4 million.

Public Works Director Jim Smith met with state and federal authorities early last week to survey the damage and make a further assessment.

Smith said the damage could have been even worse if it weren’t for the 20 flood control dams throughout the county.

“Without them (the dams) the damage could have been even more devastating,” he said.

Smith said the dams were built in the 1960s and 1970s, mainly because of the forethought of the area’s earlier officials.

“They were forward-thinking,” Smith said. He especially noted the dams west of downtown Ellijay that help control flood waters in the Flat Branch Road area.

“I can’t stress enough how they control the downstream flow of our waterways. Without the dams on Flat Branch, downtown could have been underwater,” he said.

Flooding from the Cartecay River caused most of the damage and Smith said the seven flood control dams on that waterway kept it from “becoming a 50-year flood.”

Even though Gov. Nathan Deal immediately declared the area a “state of emergency,” qualifying for state or federal assistance is forthcoming, according to Smith.

“There were 24 counties affected by the storm and to get federal help, the total damage has to be $13.7 million. I think we’re probably pretty close because FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) would not have been here if they didn’t think it was imminent,” he said.

Smith said there is still a lot of cleanup, mostly debris, from the Christmas Eve storm.

“It’s been crazy. We had the flooding the first of December, then the Christmas Eve flooding and then the snowstorm last weekend. Our (road) crews have been very busy,” Smith said last Thursday.

He noted the county received 20 inches of rain in December.

Smith said the road crew did a great job with the recent snowstorm, going out around 5 p.m. when the storm passed and then working throughout the night Saturday and Sunday working on roads. 

“By Monday, we had everything pretty well handled,” he noted.

Now, Smith said the road crew is looking ahead and plans to start maintaining the flood control dams this March.

“It’s imperative we keep them maintained and inspected every year, which we will start doing this spring,” he said.

Times Courier

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