Officials try to tally cost of damage

LAWRENCEVILLE - The sun came out Tuesday, finally bringing an end to a weeklong deluge that ended in historic rain and giving officials a chance to survey the damage caused by the flooding.

"This is the worst anybody has ever seen," said Gwinnett Department of Water Resources Deputy Director of Operations Tyler Richards. "We're drying out now."

Even as the roads cleared in Norcross and Lawrenceville early Tuesday, officials had to close U.S. Highway 78 and other roads when the Yellow River swelled farther south as rain water rushed downstream.

The highway was opened later in the day, along with U.S. Highway 29 bridges over the Yellow River and Sweetwater Creek, which were deemed safe. But one lane of the highway from Bethesda Church Road to Gloster Road will remain closed for at least several days, as the shoulder of the road collapsed and washed away.

Gwinnett Deputy DOT Director Kim Conroy said the water was still too high by mid-day to check all of the county's roads and bridges, but officials were keeping an eye on the infrastructure.

Portions of Cruse Road were washed away during the storm. It will be closed for several days, along with four other major roads that need repair.

Officials said they would continue to make assessments, and a report from the county's emergency management office is in the works.

According to Greg Swanson, the interim director of the emergency office, about 25 percent of the county was assessed Tuesday, and 71 homes and four businesses were identified as impacted by the flooding.

Gwinnett was among the 17 counties declared a state disaster area Monday, and Gov. Sonny Perdue asked for a federal designation the next day.

By press time Tuesday, finance officials continued to compile information on costs, including overtime for the firefighters, police officers and water and road crews that helped rescue people and assess and repair roads and pipes.

Richards said the county is keeping meticulous records about contractors in hopes that a federal disaster area designation will mean many of those costs are recouped.

Gwinnett's 15 dams were inspected Monday and all operated as they should have, Richards said.

Water department officials and contractors are working closely with the DOT to try to make sure any future stormwater problems are mitigated as the roads are repaired, she added.

And the Crooked Creek Water Resources Facility, which was flooded by the Chattahoochee River on Monday night, was reopened Tuesday.

Richards said the water has not receded enough to put sewage treatment facilities along the Yellow River and Jackson Creek back on line.

SideBar: Post Office asks for patience

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Atlanta district manager of the U.S. Postal Service is asking customers to be patient, as mail deliveries in some areas may be made later in the day than usual because of recent flooding.

"Obviously, we face the same challenges that everyone else has to endure given the severity of weather in this area," Atlanta District Manager Kate F. Wiley said. "However, where it is safe to do so, our letter carriers will be on the streets as usual."

Spokesman Michael Miles said deliveries were made in Gwinnett County Monday and Tuesday, but carriers encountered some problems, particularly in Lawrenceville and Lilburn near the Yellow River.

- Heather Darenberg