DeKalb families wonder how much relief will come
When disaster struck, Brenda Roberts jumped into action. The day after her home was ravaged by flood water she was in her basement beginning the recovery process.
Four days after the worst flooding in metro Atlanta, Roberts had pieces of drywall neatly cut and removed from her garage and remnants of her life—photos, records, shoes—laid out on her Lithonia driveway drying in the sun. She was hoping that if she kept working feverishly—aided by friends and neighbors—she might be able to move back in within a few days.
Although her upper floors escaped damage (flood water reached about three to four feet in her lower level family room and garage), mold and mildew and the overwhelming odor made her home temporarily uninhabitable.
A water-damaged television and printer as well as household debris were stacked by the curb for trash pickup. She also planned to pull the hard drives from two destroyed computers before setting them out.
One of the items Roberts needs most is in short supply. Dehumidifiers, used to extract moisture from damp environments, had been sold out at several local hardware and home improvement stores.
Last Friday, Sept. 25, the sun blazed strong and bright, but dark clouds too were slowly moving across the sky. The forecast for the weekend worried Roberts.
“I’m focusing on getting things I want to save,” said Roberts, who was letting her washer and dryer dry out before attempting to see if they were still working. “It’s draining. Most people are kinda in a haze.”
Roberts estimated that about seven of her neighbors on Stone Mill Road experienced major flooding. She said when she woke up Monday, Sept. 21, her basement was flooded and within two hours the water was too high for her to attempt to leave her front door safely. She was rescued by a neighbor in boat.
For the time being, Roberts is staying with friends who lent her a vehicle since her Infiniti Q35 was water logged and is a “total loss.”
While attention has been focused on the devastation in other counties such as Douglas, Cobb and Paulding, neighbors in Stone Mill Manor neighborhood in Lithonia are wondering how much relief will come. Families living on Stone Mill Manor, Drake Avenue and Kilkenny Circle were among DeKalb residents most affected by the unexpected flooding. No doubt many were relieved to hear that the federal government has included DeKalb in its declaration of 17 Georgia counties as disaster areas, which means they will be eligible for a variety of economic assistance.
Roberts said she’s concerned about people who had been struggling before the flooding occurred and now this will push them over the edge. She said she’s heard talk by some neighbors of “just walking away from their homes.”
Roberts has lived in her home for 16 years and like many of her neighbors who never experienced any problems with water coming into her home, she has no flood insurance.
Two doors down from Roberts, Pat Holcombe said that neighbors needed to check each other’s yards for missing belongings as flood waters carried items great distances.
Holcombe said much of what was in her downstairs—where her mother lived—is a loss. Her 84-year-old mother had to be carried out in a boat.
“She’s OK,” said Holcombe. “I won’t let her go back in her area,” said Holcombe, noting that older people have a tougher time processing devastating events and grieving.
She, too, took advantage of the warm weather and sunshine on Friday to get items to the curb.
“I am just trying to keep moving forward. I want to go home,” said Holcombe, who is staying with friends on Phillips Road, and hopes to move back in a week.
Standing beside two motorcycles and a lawnmower, unsure whether any would start, Holcombe said she was having trouble sleeping and was not eating well.
“There’s so much to do, to keep in mind and organize,” she said.
DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May, who lives on Kilkenny Circle, said he expects to be out of his house for about 45 days after being inundated with five feet of water in his garage and house.
“It’s a slow process,” said May. “We don’t live in a flood plain and it’s not supposed to flood.”
He estimated about 20 homes in his neighborhood and an adjoining subdivision have been damaged.
May said he and his neighbors have to contend with the aftereffects of water and sewage. Storm drains were backed up, and apparently overflow from the pump station flowed into the neighborhood, he said.
A few doors down from Holcombe, Mbalia Kande stood in her mostly gutted kitchen–where only days before she found her freezer floating–and said she’s determined to rebuild.
Outside several vehicles were drying out and Kande said only one is working for sure.
She’s been visited by FEMA inspectors and called by the American Red Cross but said she could use help right away with gas expenses because she now has to travel from Snellville, where she’s living with friends, to her four children’s schools.
As for the cost of making her kitchen and downstairs living areas inhabitable, a home improvement contractor at her house gave an estimate of $65,000 to shore up the structure, replace appliances and windows, install new flooring and paint.
“Our lives have been turned upside down,” said Kande.