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Business owners slogging through flood damage

POSTED: May 20, 2013 11:29 p.m.

Ed Hensley begins cleanup of his flooded offices at the Wayne Center in Flowery Branch. Hensley's company, Agrimar Corp., has been at the location for 15 years.

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Outside The Tire Store and Lakeview Automotive Group on Atlanta Highway in Flowery Branch, workers hauled equipment to dry areas and washed sheets of mud off the pavement.

“I mean, it’s unreal,” owner Johnathan Seaton said. “I’ve lived here since 1998 and never before have I seen flooding like this.”

Some 7 1/2 inches of rain fell within six hours in Flowery Branch, according to Hall County government officials.

Seaton didn’t have an exact figure on the cost of the damage yet.

“We’ve still got to figure out the insurance. We lost a few cars to the flooding,” he said.

He anticipates his business will be up and running in a few days. For his across-the-street neighbors, however, the situation was more grim.

“We lost everything,” said Diane Davis, who works in the Wayne Center.

Monday morning was not spent sitting at her front desk position at Agrimar Corp., but instead salvaging and cleaning up the storm’s wreckage.

“When they first opened the doors, a flood of things came out. Coffeepots, binders — they had been floating,” she said, and motioned to the muddy walls. “You can see where the water came up. The water rose up about 4« feet. And after that, the rain just sat for two hours.”

Davis said she, too, had never seen flooding of that nature in Flowery Branch.

“The train tracks go behind. They redid a culvert over there, and did not put a big enough drain in it,” Davis said. “That’s the problem.”

She added a caveat; “It was that, plus an act of God.”

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller said culverts under the Norfolk Southern tracks wouldn’t let water from Flowery Branch Creek get into Lake Lanier. That caused a backup that, in turn, caused other culverts within the city limits to fail.

Busy dealing with damage control, building co-owners said simply that they’re in the process of “figuring out” what their next steps will be.

For some Flowery Branch residents, there may be more trouble coming, Police Chief David Spillers cautioned.

“There are safety concerns at Cantrell Road and Spring Street, primarily Spring Street because of a 100-resident apartment complex on the opposite side of the stream,” he said. “The roadbed is more decaying than we would like it to be, and in the event that the road degrades any further, these people could very well be stranded on the other side.”

The problem, Spillers explained, is the possibility of more rain.

“The prediction is for rain coming back on Wednesday, so the Public Works Department crews are out there putting on some temporary repairs — Public Works Superintendent Johnny Thomas, and his crews,” he said.

He added that City Manger Bill Andrew is meeting with engineers.

Spillers stressed preparedness to residents.

“The residents need to be prepared. I’m not saying we’re calling for an evacuation now, but they do need to be prepared that if we knock on the door, they have enough stuff put together to spend the night someplace. If they were prepared for a night or two, then we should be able to get the roads under control.”

Public works crews are working diligently to address the biggest problem areas as they evolve, Spillers said.

“The immediate priority is to maintain a flow of fresh, clean water,” he said. “But they’re dealing with a list of priorities, and that priority list has changed from time to time and it’s going to change more as we get closer to the next weather front.”

Those served by Flowery Branch water were under a boil water advisory until 9 p.m. Monday. Eighteen homes on Trudy Drive served by Gainesville Public Utilities were under a boil water advisory until this morning.

Flowery Branch United Methodist Church is also located on Spring Street near the affected apartment complex.

“Our fellowship hall had about 2 inches of rain in it wall-to-wall,” said the Rev. Ed Dickens. “I know we have some members who were cut off by the Trudy Drive washout and others whose basements were flooded.”

Melanie Kane, a homeowner located across from Alberta Banks Park, awoke at 4 a.m. to 6 inches of water throughout her home. It’s not the first time water has encroached, but this time it will mean more than $25,000 in repairs not covered by insurance, she said.

Multiple roads were closed Sunday and Monday due to washouts.

On Monday morning, Laura Smith was still unable to leave her subdivision without a hike. A sinkhole near Cove Creek Drive, off Lights Ferry Road, rendered it useless.

“The road is still impassable ...” she said. “The hole has deepened.” Smith said members of the Hall County Marshal’s Office assisted homeowners as they retrieved their cars before closing the road for repairs.

“The challenge, of course, is that we have to leave earlier to go anywhere and we have to walk to our cars at the other end of the subdivision,” she said.

It is still too early to accurately assess the storm’s financial repercussions.

“A total of five vehicles were underwater,” Spillers said of cars held at the city’s impound lot. Officials gave different numbers for the loss, but said it will be the responsibility of the city.

Times regional staff writer Lisa Laskey contributed to this report


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