COVINGTON - County officials are adopting a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to opening up more than a dozen roads that are closed due to flooding.
That's because they must wait until the water recedes enough to determine if roads and bridges have been damaged and are safe for motorists, said county engineer Kevin Walter.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has several teams of bridge inspectors to assist counties, but "until the water is way down, they can't do a proper inspection, and I believe they'll be stretched thin with all the counties much worse hit than us," Walter said.
As soon as they're able, county staff members, possibly aided by engineering consultants used by the county in the past, will evaluate bridges and roads that have been flooded, and Chairman Kathy Morgan will make a decision as to when they should be reopened, Walter said.
He added he hoped inspections could begin by the end of this week.
"We don't want to keep roads closed for longer than they have to be because it's a huge inconvenience to people and the schools," Walter said.
"I'm pretty optimistic," there will be little damage, he added.
Of most concern is Crowell Road at its intersection with Harold Dobbs Road, Walter said.
Emergency repairs had to be made there three years ago when the embankment collapsed after culverts under the road failed due to heavy rains.
A wall was built out of pilings and pre-stressed concrete panels to secure the roadway, and it appeared that floodwaters were washing away some of the dirt from behind the wall, he said.
The Brown Bridge Road bridge near Ram Drive is also a concern, he said.
"At the Brown Bridge Road bridge there's been a lot of current. We'll be able to see when the water goes down if, for example, telephone poles have been undermined," he said.
Gov. Sonny Perdue has asked President Barack Obama for an emergency declaration to assist 17 Georgia counties, including Newton, with recovery efforts due to flooding and severe weather. If approved, the declaration will provide federal funds for emergency response measures and aid for losses. Officials estimated $250 million in damages in the state.
Perdue issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in the following counties: Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Crawford, DeKalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Stephens and Walker.
Obama personally assured Georgia officials that requests for federal aid will "receive prompt attention," the White House said Wednesday.
Obama called Perdue on Tuesday night, expressing condolences for deaths due to the flooding and concern for the residents of the region, the president's spokesman, Nick Shapiro, said. Perdue gave Obama an update on the situation and they discussed the still-ongoing response operation.
Shapiro said Obama's homeland security aides and the White House situation room will give him regular updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Road Closures
· Almon Church Road
· Crowell Road from I-20 to Brown Bridge Road
· Ga. Highway 138 from Rockdale County Line to Highway 81 N. in Walnut Grove to through traffic
· Lower River Road at Stewart Road
· Brown Bridge Road from Ram Drive to Covington City Limits
· Harold Dobbs Road - both sections
· Sewell Road at Morgan County line
· Sockwell Road (dirt portion)
· East Dollar Circle
· River Shoals Court off Stephens Road