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|Area leaders give high marks to response|
Winnsboro Mayor Jack Hammons said the planned arrival of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Winnsboro later this week could help speed recovery efforts throughout the parish.
FEMA officials are expected to open a field office in Franklin Parish later this week to begin fielding requests for disaster assistance after widespread flash floods throughout the region drove people from their homes and wrecked farms.
Hammons said he was working to ensure people were taking the necessary steps to receive federal aid when it becomes available.
"Hopefully, our residents will get enough from FEMA to help them meet their needs," Hammons said.
High among those needs will be money to rebuild homes damaged by flooding. That money could begin trickling in as soon as next week, if FEMA officials arrive as expected.
Hammons commended the citizens of Franklin Parish for their response to the flooding and storm damage.
"They realize that this was something that could not be avoided," Hammonds said. "With a 20-inch rain, we just do not have the drainage to handle that much water."
Franklin Parish depends largely on Turkey Creek and the Ash Slew for drainage. Because of above-average rainfall during August, those two water systems were already filled to capacity.
That left nowhere for the Gustav rains to go.
"Pumping systems wouldn't have helped because there is nowhere to pump the water," Hammons said.
Late last week, Pres. George Bush declared Franklin and Catahoula Parishes federal disaster areas, after leaving the two parishes off the federal disaster list.
That should free up valuable resources at a time when residents need them most, Hammons said.
Down the road in Gilbert, however, Mayor Mike Stephens said one thing he saw hampering recovery efforts was non-compliance with 9-1-1 regulations.
Parish ordinances require all homes to be clearly marked with the appropriate 9-1-1 emergency response identifications.
According to Stephens, because some homes that were damaged were not in compliance, that slowed efforts to catalogue damages.
"There's no way to identify the house," Stephens said. "We can't put it into the computer and send someone to the house without that number there."
Instead, officials had to look up each non-compliant home manually and add it to the list. That took time -- time that Stephens said could have been saved.
"It slowed us down and it took a lot more time without that number there," Stephens said.
With a run of sunny days and clear skies, the residents of Franklin Parish are turning their attention to storm recovery.
Hammons said the speed with which the parish jumped into action was indicative of the quality of people in the parish.
"We have all the debris up," Hammons said. "The water is down, thank goodness. The people are just trying to get their furniture and homes dried up."