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Assessments continue in GA

Rebuilding needs seen as critical and “massive” as faith-based responders evaluate what needs to be done.

BY ZACHARY HOFFMAN | October 5, 2009

“The rebuilds are going to be massive… and recovery is going to last years,” said Stan Hames from McEachern United Methodist Church. Georgia has a long road ahead for clean up and rebuilding after flash flooding last month rose into the 500-year flood plain.

Hames is coordinating local teams from McEachern United Methodist Church and collaborating with other faith-based disaster response teams.

“It’s a lot easier with tornadoes because they come and tear a house apart,” said Bob Tribble of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and president of the Georgia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). “With floods you have to do preliminary assessments and rank varying degrees of damage.”

Some compare the damage to that caused by Hurricane Ike in Texas where more than a year later hundreds of people are still in need.

For the 350 individuals in Chattooga County, help can not come soon enough. Chattooga is the poorest county in Georgia and has an unemployment rate greater than 26 percent, according to Ken McKinsey of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).

An old man in Trion, GA, in Chattooga sitting on the side porch of his mother’s said, “I’ve already gone through 50 or 60 years of stuff,” as he thumbs family photos he hopes to salvage.

His mother is in the hospital and he hopes that she is not aware of the amount of damage that her house sustained when the flood ruined practically everything.

A warehouse that is being managed by Adventist Community Services has helped provide clean water and supplies to residents of Trion and the greater Chattooga area who are still under a boil alert more than a week after flooding.

Like most faith-based recovery organizations PDA is waiting damage assessments to be completed before bringing in teams from outside of Georgia. “If the number is big enough, if the need is large enough and it looks like some gaps won’t be filled, that will determine what move we’ll make,” said Gene Krcelic of PDA.

Krcelic was a part of the team from PDA that were sent in to determine just how great of need will have to be filled once rebuilding begins. The need is huge.

“When you open the door to a home, the scene and the stench is reminiscent of so many missing homes you would open post-Hurricane Katrina,” said Krcelic.

More than 20 inches of rain fell in areas across the state of Georgia in a 24-hour period causing creeks and lakes to rise to the second story of homes in some places. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds of people have been displaced.

Most of the water had receded by the following Tuesday and residents began removing debris and water damaged items from their homes, but thousands of homes remain unlivable.

Some estimates indicate that long-term recovery could last two to three years.

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