Three weeks after devastating floods submerged the small city of Franklin, Va., people now must carry away what the water did not.
Wallboard, carpets, refrigerators, desks, chairs and anything else that was destroyed by the surging flood waters must be removed by tomorrow night in order for federal disaster aid to cover the cost of throwing it away. After this weekend, merchants will have to pay to dispose of the ruined materials themselves; homeowners have until next week to remove their damaged items.
Overwhelmed by the amount of ruined property in Franklin and elsewhere along the Blackwater River in southeastern Virginia, officials in the town of 8,500 are asking people from around the state to come lend a hand.
"On Thursday we only had 20 volunteers show up," said town spokeswoman Donna Napier. "We need people who can do manual labor to help businesses get this stuff out, and we need people to answer phones and pack food boxes. We're getting pretty desperate."
The City of Alexandria has granted its employees five days of administrative leave to aid in the cleanup.
City Manager Vola Lawson said she made the unusual decision to allow Alexandria workers to assist after receiving a call for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "If something happened to Alexandria, I hope our sister jurisdictions would respond," Lawson said. "I'm just being a good neighbor."
So far, 10 city employees have volunteered, she said.
Last month, a wall of water about 12 feet high gushed through downtown Franklin, flooding businesses and homes for nearly a week. Mixed into the torrent were more than 200 fuel drums, raw sewage, fertilizers and other chemicals.
By the time the disastrous mix receded, virtually every nook in every building--the interior walls, floors and ceilings--had been damaged beyond repair.
Since then, many businesses have relocated, some of them operating out of homes. The local credit union, for instance, is housed at a Comfort Inn motel.
"We're taking out everything inside," said Julie Griggs, a partner in the accounting firm of Burgess and Co., in Franklin. The downtown business was covered with water and muck, ruining everything from the 10-foot mark down to the floor. "We're pulling walls out, floors, ceilings," said Griggs. "All we'll have left is the brick."
Client files also were badly damaged, she said. Many have been sent to be professionally restored, while others are simply gone. Griggs estimated the total cost of repairs for the 25-year-old firm to be $250,000.
"We've torn out one side so far," she said. "It's a very time-consuming, hard-work type of thing. Everyone is looking for whatever volunteers" they can find.
The town's volunteer coordinator, Wendy Shepherd, estimated that 500 people are needed today and tomorrow to help shop owners clear their stores before tomorrow's deadline.
Many business owners say the damage is too severe for them to reopen, leaving them with the dreary task of cleaning house.
"I can't afford another mortgage," said Peter Pearson, whose 1979 restaurant, Phillips and Company, was wiped out. Pearson, who, like most business owners in and around Franklin, did not have flood insurance, puts his loss at close to $200,000.
Pearson owns a less formal restaurant a few miles outside Franklin and said it was unlikely he would reopen Phillips downtown.
"We were prepared for the worst," he said, "and it far exceeded that."
CAPTION: Days of heavy rain associated with Hurricane Floyd left downtown Franklin, Va., under water Sept. 17. Residents now face a massive cleanup effort.