Flood victims go to FEMA center in Gwinnett for answers

LAWRENCEVILLE - Becky DeRidder and her husband thought they had done everything they needed to avoid flood damage.

They raised outlets and did all the home-proofing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends.

While many people in Gwinnett were awakened in the early hours of Sept. 21 to flooded basements, DeRidder's husband moved his tools to tables in the basement. His wife left for work.

But hours later, as the Yellow River crested, the DeRidders saw the water rise not just into their basement but to the entire bottom level of the house.

"We thought we'd be safe," she said. "It just wasn't enough."

Not only did the water overwhelm the DeRidders, but the amount of work to repair their East River Bend home did as well.

On Thursday, she turned to a disaster support center for help.

"We're do-it-yourselfers, but this is way over our heads,"

DeRidder said.

Officials said about 75 people turned out Wednesday for the opening of the disaster recovery center at the Mountain Park Depot in Mountain Park Park - one of 14 centers opened in flood-devastated metro Atlanta.

On Thursday, the people kept coming.

"There's a lot of stories to be told," said Diane Bagley, who had moved out of her Lake Lucerne home a few years ago, but after it sat on the market for years, she decided to make it rental property.

Her 19-year-old granddaughter's car was destroyed in the flood, and Bagley said she already has the money from insurance, but she did not have flood insurance on the house.

"That river came up so far, you would never dream," she said.

Bagley said the Federal Emergency Management Agency could not help her, but she was hoping to get a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which was also on hand at the center.

"I think the people who who have lost their homes need the help first," she said. "I feel very lucky, very blessed."

Juanita Ivey, 79, who lives in Lilburn, said her basement took the brunt of the flood waters.

"It's gone," she said. "I've got to restore it. The rest of the house, thank God, is fine."

Her daughter, who lives in a basement bedroom, has moved upstairs temporarily, but Ivey said they both would prefer to have their own space.

The center, she said, gave her hope.

"It's wonderful for people in this area, so they don't have to go all over."

The center will be open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week, at least through the weekend, officials said.

In addition to visiting the Disaster Recovery Center, people can apply for aid online or by telephone. Applications can be submitted online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.