COVINGTON - At least two county roads will remain closed indefinitely as engineers work to assess structural damage.
The Georgia Department of Transportation and the county's engineering staff have determined that portions of Crowell and Brown Bridge roads will likely need repairs once the floodwaters recede.
A sinkhole on Crowell Road will pose a danger to motorists, according to Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan.
"We can't determine the extent of the damage until the water goes down significantly. The road will be semi-permanently closed with concrete barriers between I-20 to Brown Bridge Road for the length of time until we can review the damage. It could be three days, it could be 30 days," Morgan said.
Brown Bridge Road from Ram Drive to Covington city limits will also remain closed for a while, due to damage to a bridge.
"We may have to send divers down into the river to look at the structure of the bridge ... The Yellow River was running so fast and so swift, the water eroded a good part of the road around there," Morgan said.
The county had closed 15 roads by Monday night. As of Thursday, four had been reopened.
"As the water recedes, we will not reopen the roads until we've had a chance to take a crew and engineers out to inspect the roads and bridges to make sure they are safe to pass on," she said.
Morgan said she knows citizens continue to be inconvenienced by the closings, but added that safety must come first.
"I'm sorry half or more of the population has been inconvenienced by road closings. We did follow (Department of Transportation) public safety guidelines. I'd rather inconvenience every citizen in Newton County than to find one person floating in the river," she said.
Morgan commended the county's public works staff and all emergency management and public safety personnel for their hard work this week. Many have been working around the clock to keep residents safe, she said.
"We've been fortunate we've not lost lives. That's the one mandate I gave the (public works) department: If in doubt, close it," she said.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has been regularly flying over the Yellow River to assess water conditions, she said.
Newton County qualifies for state and federal disaster relief funds, but it's too soon to know how much the county will get or when the assistance will come, she said.
Newton County officials will be working with GEMA and other government agencies to evaluate and analyze why floodwaters rose so quickly and whether there is a threat in the future, Morgan said.
"Our concern is, is this a one-time natural disaster or is it something that might occur with large amounts of rain in the future?"
The flooding may be the result of stormwater runoff as much as rain, since runoff from DeKalb and Gwinnett counties flows into the Yellow River, Morgan said.
"The more they build, the more imperious surfaces there are and there's nowhere for the rain to go. It's all about stormwater. This is a perfect example of the damage stormwater can do," she said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Road closures
Newton County road closings:
· Crowell Road, from I-20 to Brown Bridge Road
· Ga. Highway 138, from Rockdale County line to Ga. Highway 81 N in Walnut Grove to through traffic
· Lower River Rd 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
· Channing Cope Road