New, man-made threat emerges on Troup County roads after floods recede
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016
LaGRANGE — The Troup County Board of Commissioners heard a debrief of flood events and updates on recovery at its Tuesday meeting.
Steady communication among county staff during the flood and the activation of an emergency operation center helped smooth the response as waters inundated the area, said Tod Tentler, county manager.
More than 40 roads were flooded during the rainfall, prompting officials to temporarily close 33 roads, according to James Emery, county roads engineer. Officials initially estimated as many as 25 roads were damaged, but today only 11 roads remain partially or completely closed.
Emery told commissioners the damages may eventually total more than $1 million.
“An initial ‘windshield’ estimate, I’d say we have about $960,000 in damages,” Emery said. That number is an early estimate and could fluctuate, he added.
The most substantial damage was caused on Towns Road, officials said.
Now that the rain has passed, a new threat has emerged — this time, man-made.
“We’ve had a severe problem with people moving the barricades set up to close roads,” Emery told commissioners.
“It’s like people are moving these barricades and trying to make some kind of ‘Dukes of Hazard’ crossing,” he said. “But it is absolutely against the law to go through a barricade.”
Emery said he’s concerned because some motorists are approaching blocked off roads, moving the barricades to the side and driving through, leaving the road seemingly open to future motorists.
Some of the damage caused by flooding won’t be immediately noticeable to drivers. Drain pipes beneath roads have been washed out, although the road above may be intact. Emery said he’s worried that someone could unknowingly drive over one of these washed out areas and the road could collapse beneath them.
Commissioner Tripp Foster called for “harsh penalties” for people caught moving barricades or endangering public safety. He asked the county manager and staff to investigate whether the state of emergency declared by Gov. Nathan Deal days ago would provide special penalties for moving barricades.
The county is currently waiting on the state to review its application for emergency grant funds to fix the roadways, according to Dennis Knight, county fire chief and emergency manager.
“We don’t really have an idea about the time frame,” but the county is working as quickly as possible to restore roadways, he said.
Even if funds do come through from the state, that money will be used for road repair — not for individuals affected by flooding in their homes.
“There are no (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) or (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds available to help individuals,” Knight said. “That’s where the community is going to have to come together and help people.”
Tentler, the county manager, said officials are working hard toward recovery.
“We’re trying everything we can,” he said. “But we have limited resources and limited staff.”
Commission Chairman Patrick Crews praised county staff for their hard work — many staff members worked late into Christmas Eve and on into Christmas Day. He also said the cooperation between the county, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the area’s state Rep. Randy Nix was instrumental in the recovery effort.