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MEDIA NEWSWIRE

Dennis' rain, flooding slams Georgia homes, crops

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Heavy rain plus more heavy rain usually equals flooding. That's just what Hurricane Dennis brought to Georgia on July 10. And flooding was just one of many problems.

"A large part of the problem, particularly across north Georgia, is the fact that the area got inundated a few days earlier by Cindy," said state climatologist David Stooksbury. "There was not much buffering left in the system. Once it started raining, the water didn't have many places left to go."

The flooding was bad. On July 13, Gov. Sonny Perdue requested disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration for Cherokee, Cobb, Colquitt, Douglas and Worth counties due to Dennis' impact. The assistance, if approved, would provide low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and businesses.

"State and local emergency management assessment teams have reported that many homes and businesses have sustained significant damage," Perdue said in a press release. "We hope to make this assistance available as soon as possible."

There's more

While the SBA loans may be offered to those affected in these five counties, Dennis' effects weren't limited to homes and businesses. So far, Georgia crops most damaged include pecans, peaches, corn, hay, vegetables and tobacco, Perdue said.

Georgia Pecan Commission chairman Charles "Buddy" Leger, who is also a south Georgia grower, said he lost 5 percent to 10 percent of this year's crop "because, at this stage, when the wind whips the limbs around, the nuts will come off."

But Leger has seen worse from tropical storms. "Last year we had a direct hit," he said. "This year we were on the fringe. Basically, all we got was water and wind."

Peaches

Whipping winds sent peach limbs swinging, too, puncturing the fruit. But that's only a part of this year's peach crop woes.

"Peaches have been hit hard all year," said Frank Funderburk Peach County coordinator with the University of Georgia Extension Service. "All year long we've had rain, and disease problems have been worse than normal."

Peach County is Georgia's top peach-producing county. Mostly because of heavy spring rains, growers there have "had increased diseases on varieties we didn't suspect would have disease," Funderburk said.

Dennis hit the state's watermelon and cantaloupe crops, too.

If the state meets the minimum criteria for disaster aid, Perdue will ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture for assistance.

While this hurricane season has been predicted to be more active than last year's, "we can't read any more into it," Stooksbury said. "It's abnormal to have this many tropical storms this early in the season. Abnormal events do occur, though."

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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