HELEN, Ga. – This Alpine city may be down, but it’s not out.
Helen Mayor Jeff Ash said, “I’ve seen it rain this much in a single day, but I’ve never seen a week like this. I’ve never seen this much water and I’ve been here 33 years.”
Helen residents have endured some 20 inches of rain this week, mudslides and silt covered streets and parking lots. That would devastate many small towns. But it has steeled Helen’s residents who are determined to remain open for business. In fact, three major events that attract hundreds, if not thousands of visitors, are taking place as scheduled – the 45th annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race, the U.S. Rider News Reunion and the Southeast Victory Run.
“I can tell you that every single city employee and every citizen has worked triple time and our property owners themselves have worked to help us remain open,” Ash said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how everyone has responded.”
There was a mudslide across the street from the city’s post office. Alpine Mini Golf was flooded more than once and Main Street was under water for a time. There was also significant damage to the golf course at Innsbruck Resort and Golf Club. Nacoochee Valley was flooded at one point and the ‘Hooch continues to roar through the middle of town at a dangerously high flow level.
Terry Sims owns three businesses in town including Alpine Coaster, which he hoped to open this spring, but winter rain delayed the opening. Then, what appears to have been a record-setting week of rain returned Tuesday.
“We pretty much had it cleaned up Wednesday then rain returned (Thursday) and here we are again,” Sims said. “Getting seven inches of rain in 45 minutes to an hour didn’t help things. We were here until 10 p.m. yesterday.”
Like others, Sims said he will return again and again if necessary.
The spirit of the town’s folks will help this mountain city back to normal sooner rather than later.
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