MOULTRIE -- As life approaches normal following last week's flooding, some help is becoming available for people whose lives and livelihoods were damaged by the rising waters.
The Small Business Administration on Wednesday declared Colquitt and 10 other counties disaster areas due to the effects of Tropical Storm Dennis, according to SBA Disaster Area Acting Director Frank Skaggs.
"As a result of this declaration, low-interest loans are available to homeowners, renters and businesses that sustained damage in the July 10 storm," Skaggs said. "If you had any damage as a result of this tropical storm, you're eligible to apply for this help."
To assist disaster victims, SBA is opening two temporary loan assistance centers at 8 a.m. Friday at the EMA Building, 164 Veterans Parkway in Moultrie, and at the Sylvester Fire Department, 101 N. Westberry St. in Sylvester. The centers will remain open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays until further notice.
SBA offers loans up to $40,000 for homeowners and renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged personal property, such as furniture and clothing. Homeowners are eligible for loans up to $200,000 to repair disaster-damaged primary residences. Loans to businesses of all sizes and non-profit organizations are available for up to $1.5 million to remair damaged real estate, machinery, equipment and inventory. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are also available to small businesses unable to pay bills or meet operating expenses.
Interest rates are as low as 2.875 percent for homeowners and renters and 4 percent for businesses with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant's financial condition.
The deadline for physical damage applications is Sept. 19, and for economic injury applications is April 19, 2006. For more information, call 1-800-659-2955 or visit the Web site at www.sba.gov/disaster.
Meanwhile, Colquitt County road crews see the light at the end of the tunnel. Only one road remains closed as a result of the flooding.
County work crews continue to repair the James Buckner Road, a county public works spokeswoman said Wednesday. If all goes well, it may be reopened today.
The Old Berlin Road was reopened about 4 p.m. Wednesday.
As many as 60 roads were closed at some point during the storm. Seven were still closed July 14.
One other road -- Smithwick Bridge Road -- was closed for bridge repairs before the storm hit. It remains closed.
Reed Bingham State Park, which straddles the Little River, suffered some structural damage from the high water, naturalist Chet Powell said Wednesday, but things are generally back to normal there too. A dock used by the park for its pontoon boat was pulled loose and shoved against the dam, and a bridge between the Colquitt County side of the park and a small island was disconnected. Both have been repaired, he said.
The river crested July 13 at just under 19 feet, Powell said.
"The only thing that compares is the flood of '94," he said.
Powell said the lake was closed about a day and a half but is open now. He strongly urged boaters to use caution, though.
"Things are actually still floating down the river," he said. Park rangers pulled a dead cypress tree from the lake Tuesday, he said.
Nature trails are open, Powell said. Trees that fell across them during the storm have been cut up, but debris is still lying beside the trails waiting to be removed.
A trio of alligators that had fled their normal territory were back where they belonged, he said. The gators, which measured between 5 and 9 feet long, had congregated between the dam and the bridge.
"It was a popular place to stop and take pictures for a couple days," he said.
Powell said many people were concerned about snakes, but the park had no problem with them.
The naturalist did find a bright spot from the storm.
"The high water did wash a lot of our weed problem down river, especially the water hyacinth," he said. "... Tons of the stuff went back to Florida where it needs to be."