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Bill's rains hammer area

By By Connie Nowlin
Managing editor
With residents still trying to rebuild their lives, homes and businesses, after heavy May rains, the area was hit by just what it did not need Monday – more water.
Rains associated with tropical storm Bill lashed northwest Florida and south Alabama, at times spawning tornadoes and damaging trees and power lines.
"We are getting a lot of rain, and we are going to get more," said Bill Smith, director and coordinator for Escambia County Emergency Management.
"I made a circuit (Monday morning) to check the creeks and the river, and we're in good shape to take a lot of water," he said. "And most of the water with Bill is going to fall to the west."
Late Monday, Smith thought the hitch might come later in the week.
"I don't know how much water will be dumped up north of us. It travels underground when the ground gets saturated. We may get to a flood watch by Thursday, (because of water from the north) but unless something drastic happens, we'll just watch it."
However, the Escambia River near Century was only 4 feet below flood stage Tuesday morning and expected to reach flood by Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Minor flooding of low-lying areas was expected, and expected to continue until the river drops below 13 feet.
Smith suggested that in storm situation, residents pay close attention to the crawlers at the bottom of their television screen.
"They can save you in bad weather," he said.
That bad weather raked the area in October, and again in May.
But homeowners and renters who suffered losses in the May 5 storms can apply for recovery funds, if they do so before July 11.
Recovery funds are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to press releases from that agency, but the damage must have occurred during the May 5 storms, although there has been weather damage since then, said Smith.
The application for the funding is entirely completed by calling a toll-free telephone number, not through the local office. There are different programs for homeowners and business.
In order for a business to qualify, it must be a small business, non-farm, but dependent on agriculture. Small agricultural co-ops are also eligible. Those applications are made through the Small Business Administration and the dollars became available in June because the Secretary of Agriculture designated Escambia and surrounding counties as disaster areas as a result of damage caused in October by rainfall.
Qualifying businesses may get low-interest loans that may be used to help pay bills and meet normal operating expenses. Loans are capped at $1.5 million and carry a 30-year term with a 4 percent interest rate. Deadline for applications for these funds is Dec. 30.
Many of those who had homes damaged during the May storms have already applied for or gotten help.
Escambia County had nearly 300 applications filed as of the last week in June and almost $200,000 in housing and other needs grants approved.
Statewide, by the end of June, more than $25 million in disaster funds from the two programs had been approved.