After some harrowing hours Thursday, Helen and White County are starting to get back to normal from flash flooding.
As of 4:30 p.m. Friday, only two roads in White County remain closed:
- Sandy Flats Road west of Cleveland remains closed from the Tuesday storm; and
- Carolina Springs Road, which sustained extensive damage in Thursday’s rain event, remains closed until further notice. County officials anticipate it could be an extended closure.
That just as another thunderstorm moved into White County.
White County officials said Friday afternoon the American Red Cross has been requested to assist residents of five homes in White County.
White County Public Safety Director David Murphy urges any homeowner or business that received damage from this week's flooding to contact his office at (706) 865-9500 if they have not already done so.
Helen received 6.96 inches of rain from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday, while Sautee received 7.75 inches. Cleveland received only 1.45 inch during the same period, according to National Weather Service Cooperator Bill Kinsland of White County.
Those 24-hour numbers are high, but it’s the seven-day history that is staggering.
Cleveland received 7.36 inches of rain between May 26 and 7 a.m. today (Friday), while Helen received 20.29 inches, and Sautee received 17.5 inches, for a White County average rainfall of 15.05 inches over the seven-day period.
The heavy rain in White County has prompted officials to postpone this weekend’s soft opening for the Yonah Preserve Trails.
Clark Neal, Yonah Preserve Trail Project coordinated, said the excessive rain has made the trails unsuitable for the opening. SORBA will do a trail assessment following the rain event and announce a future opening date.
White County Commission Vice Chairman Craig Bryant has declared a Local State of Emergency in the county due to necessary emergency road repairs and emergency protective measures.
In that declaration, Bryant states, “Due to this event, the county of White has at this time exhausted all local and mutual aid resources” and “there exist emergency circumstances requiring extraordinary and immediate corrective acts for the protection of the health and safety of the citizens of the county of White and the county of White has determined that the providing of such remedial and corrective measures are beyond its area of expertise and financial abilities to provide for the same within the timeframe required to provide for the health and safety of its citizens and the protection of their properties.”
Normally, a Local State of Emergency allows governments to waive the traditional bid advertisement requirements that can delay work beginning for weeks or more.
Helen trying to maintain traditions
In Helen, officials are trying to keep longstanding traditions alive despite flooding and now more rainfall.
The 45th-annual Helen to the Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race was able to start early Friday, on about a 24-hour delay. Pilot Daryl Tatum crossed Interstate 95, the event finish line, while pilot Jonathan Wright landed just before I-95.
Additionally, 18th-annual U.S. Rider News Motorcycle Rally participants are in town as well.
City restaurants and merchants say they are ready to serve the participants, despite rain dampening the events.
State recreation facilities damaged
White County and Helen aren’t the only ones cleaning up after this week’s high-water events.
The State of Georgia has announced that the day use areas of Smithgall Woods State Park and the newly-opened Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail are closed until further notice due to damage.
Will Wagner, general manager of Smithgall Woods and Hardman Farm, made the announcement Friday, saying while the trail is closed the Hardman Farm Historic Site is open for tours and Smithgall Woods cottages are open for overnight guests.
The Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail, which connects Helen to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site, sustained significant damage from Thursday night’s storm, forcing the indefinite closure and the cancellation of Saturday’s planned guided hike.
Additionally, Smithgall Woods State Park is closed to day use activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting.
Dean Dyer of WRWH Radio in Cleveland contributed to this report.