Two additional counties have been added to Georgia’s disaster list and those in the most severely impacted area have a new way to get help.
Vice President Joe Biden was in Georgia today to tour damage from this year’s historic flood, which claimed nine lives and caused more than $250 million in damage.
Biden, speaking from the American Red Cross shelter at the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta, announced that Chattooga and Stephens counties have been added to the disaster list originally announced Thursday by President Barack Obama. Residents and business owners in the following counties now can apply for federal financial assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration: Carroll, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas, Paulding and Stephens.
While Biden actually announced that three counties were added to the list today, he included Carroll, which the White House announced Thursday afternoon.
Also Friday, FEMA and its state equivalent, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, announced that a disaster recovery center opened today in Austell, one of the hardest hit areas of the state. People who suffered losses can get in-person assistance and speak with specialists skilled in disaster recovery. The center, open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, is at The Threadmill, 5000 Austell/Powder Springs Road, Suite 120, in Austell.
Biden spoke to Red Cross volunteers, shelter residents and reporters after touring the flood damage from the air. Joined by several federal, state and local elected officials. Biden said the damage is severe. One woman he spoke with lost her home, he said, and was distraught. She said she realized this storm pales to Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2005.
“The truth of the matter,” Biden said, “is for someone who lost their home, it is Katrina. For some in this shelter, it is Katrina.”
While the overall scope does not approach the damage Katrina wrought on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the impact for many is the same.
“It’s more than a physical loss,” he said. “It’s a psychological loss.”
Biden, joined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said federal damage assessment teams are continuing to survey the region and that more counties could be added to the disaster list in the days ahead.
Gov. Sonny Perdue originally asked Obama to declare an emergency in 17 Georgia counties. Perdue is on a trade mission to Panama and was not with Biden today. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle stood in for the governor. U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), whose district includes hard-hit Douglas, joined Biden.
Georgia’s two U.S. senators, both Republicans, joined Biden on the tour today and praised the Obama administration for its quick response.
“This administration responded in a very magnificent way and in a very quick way,” Chambliss said.
But not all are convinced. On Thursday, Cobb County Commission chairman Sam Olens, a Republican running for attorney general, criticized the administration for seemingly dragging its feet in declaring a disaster in Cobb. But that was before the president’s announcement.
On Friday, DeKalb County commissioner Lee May said his county was overlooked.
May is asking that DeKalb County be added to the disaster area list., saying “hundreds” of homeowners were flooded.
”We had five feet of water in our house — our entire first floor was ruined,” May said.
May, who lives by the Yellow River, said he didn’t think the county had done a good enough job explaining how many of its citizens were harmed by the historic flooding. He said the county’s sewage plant on the Yellow River was flooded and a community meeting he had for flood victims had at least 200 people in the room.
Back in Marietta, however, Deandra Moses was thankful for the shelter.
Moses, 21, is staying at the Civic Center shelter with her two young children, a son, age 4, and a daughter 3.
They had been in Georgia all of two days when the floods washed out their temporary home. Moses said they were staying with a friend and she isn’t even sure where it was.
“I’m not even sure where I am now,” Moses said outside the Civic Center as Biden spoke with other residents inside.
Moses said they saved some clothes and got more at the shelter from the American Red Cross.
“Everything else is gone,” she said.
The children are dealing as well as can be expected, she said, although her daughter, Deniyjah, has been waking with nightmares.
Still, Moses said she was pleased to see Biden. It makes her believe that someone cares what happens to her.
“It’s exciting,” she said
Staff Writer Steve Visser contributed.