FEMA to come to Gwinnett
Officials may designate county disaster area for federal funds

LAWRENCEVILLE - Only a fraction of the more than 10,000 homeowners affected by this week's floods have the appropriate insurance.

But Federal Emergency Management Agency officials will be in Gwinnett surveying the damage.

On Thursday, Carroll, Cobb, Paulding, Douglas and Cherokee counties were declared federal disaster areas, and requests for 12 more counties, including Gwinnett, are pending.

Gwinnett Emergency Management Interim Director Greg Swanson said the county's determination could be made after today's visit.

"Gwinnett County experienced devastating losses in the floods, and we remain hopeful that our community will receive federal assistance," Swanson said.

According to Gwinnett reports so far, 295 homes, 14 businesses and 52 county assets were damaged or destroyed in the floods.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a teleconference Thursday that he expected other counties would be added to the disaster designation in the coming days.

He will be traveling to Georgia today to survey the damage, along with Vice President Joe Biden.

Victims can call 1-800-621-FEMA or go to www.disasterassistance.gov to begin the process of qualifying for assistance with uninsured losses.

Individual assistance is the agency's current priority, he said, and public assistance to infrastructure is expected to take longer.

If the county is declared a federal disaster area, then property owners could get help from the government in restoring their homes, said Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

Oxendine urged victims to take pictures and document the damage before they begin repairs, and he said people should file a claim with their insurance companies, even if they don't have flood insurance.

Flood coverage isn't common in homeowners insurance policies, but nearly all communities in Georgia can participate in the National Flood Insurance program, he said. Regular policies often have coverage for sewer or septic tank back-ups, which could help some of the victims of Monday's and Tuesday's floods, and cars should be covered by auto insurance, he said.

"It's tantamount to what happened with Hurricane Katrina," said Oxendine, who surveyed some of the damage in Gwinnett, his home county, as well as other devastated areas across metro Atlanta.

The insurance commissioners' office has posted tips and information to help victims of the flooding, and he estimates damage across the region could be as much as $250 million.