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Hall County completes storm damage assessment

POSTED: May 24, 2013 12:36 a.m.

Hall County suffered about $800,000 in storm damage, county Fire Chief David Kimbrell told county commissioners at their meeting Wednesday.

Record-setting rain started early Sunday morning. It caused flooding, washing out tunnels under roads and railroads that drain water and causing road cave-ins. The storm hit South Hall, including the city of Flowery Branch, particularly hard.

About 7.5 inches of rain fell inside of six hours, with 5.5 inches of rain falling in a three-hour period, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., in the Flowery Branch watershed area. That’s close to between a 200-year and 500-year flood, according to National Weather Service data, said Shaugn McReynolds, director of civil engineering for Norcross-based consulting firm Pond & Co in an email.

Six roads were blocked, and several culverts, or drainage tunnels, were washed out, which weakened the road pavement. Two roads are still closed, and repairs are likely to take several weeks.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller praised city workers, who he said have worked overtime in recovery efforts. The municipality estimates its damage at $1.4 million.

City Manager Bill Andrew said the city is applying for emergency assistance with the Georgia Department of Transportation. One grant application with the Department of Community Development is 23 pages, Miller said.

“The one thing we’ve learned through this process is all these emergency, contingency funds are not small-town friendly,” the mayor said. “It takes time to complete a 23-page application when at this point all of our assets are tied up trying to secure things and repair and get the city functioning back to where it’s supposed to be. But we’re having to spend a staff member to fill out that application.”

Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said it has requested assistance from DOT and expects to hear something next week. McEver Road in Oakwood is closed between Flowery Branch and Oakwood South Industrial Park.

“Design will be complete tomorrow and we will solicit bids next week,” Brown said in an email. “We expect approximately two months to complete and reopen the road.”

In Hall County, Stephens Road at Pippsissewa Drive is also closed and expected to take at least a couple of months to fix, said Kimbrell, who also serves as the county’s Emergency Management Agency director. The county’s 911 office answered about 400 calls during the storm, 200 of those in the three-hour period Sunday morning.

Hall County’s Emergency Operations Center opened with a skeletal crew from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., Kimbrell said. The county’s emergency alert system worked well.

“It sent the first notification about 4 o’clock (a.m.) that there was a flood warning,” he said to commissioners. “Then a storm warning was issued at 4:30 (a.m.).”

The system also issued a boil water advisory for South Hall and Flowery Branch residents after a water main ruptured.

Trudy Drive was washed out, but was quickly repaired and crews are still working on the culvert under Cove Creek Drive at Lights Ferry Road.

Cove Creek Drive and Spring Street have just one lane open. Spring Street partially washed away, and the city officials are monitoring it 24 hours a day.

Miller said they completed a temporary road Thursday morning to provide access to the Quad Oaks Apartments in case it’s needed. Residents of the Quad Oaks Apartments, a 50-unit complex, were cut off for a time after the road washed out in 2009. The culvert was replaced in 2010, according the The Times’ archives.

Miller said it was built to a 100-year flood standard. The heavy rainfall plus problems with culverts under railroad tracks caused water to go over the road, compromising the ground between the tunnel and the road.

DOT is still monitoring Ga. 13, also known as Atlanta Highway, for additional damage or problems, said Teri Pope, DOT district spokeswoman in an email. There are some places in Flowery Branch between the highway and the railroad where the slope slid into a ditch alongside Ga. 13, she said.

“The area is too wet from yesterday’s rains to work there,” Pope said. “We are planning on working on this next week, depending on it completely drying out.”

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