Brighter signs in a soggy summer

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 09:53 AM

Life in the southern part of heaven may have seemed a bit like life at the other end of the heaven-hell spectrum lately.

Torrential rains have flooded homes and businesses, severely disrupting entire neighborhoods such as the Colonial Village apartment complex.  Last week, an aging water line ruptured, opening a sink hole on Old Forest Creek Drive. The collapse, just north of Piney Mountain Road, closed one lane of Old Forest Creek for several hours and briefly disrupted water service to several homes.

Meanwhile, the doldrums of summer continue, bringing the annual mixed blessing of less-crowded streets, stores and restaurants – and the disappearance of thousands of potential customers from town as the University of North Carolina downshifts to summer mode.

But this past week brought a measure of good news for many residents whose homes were waterlogged and possessions damaged or destroyed by the flash floods of June. And while we know the summer slump will end – it always does – there were tangible reminders that the academic calendar will soon kick in its restoration of bustling normalcy.

On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory announced that the U. S. Small Business Administration has, as state and local officials urged, declared parts of Orange County a federal disaster area.

Residents and businesses can apply for low-interest federal loans to repair storm damage and replace personal property wiped out by the flood. Homeowners may receive up to $200,000 for structural repair, and owners and renters alike can get up to $40,000 to repair or replace appliances and other lost property.

McCrory, in announcing the loan program, praised the “resilience of those who have been impacted,” and that resilience has been impressive.  But the low-interest loans will be a big boost to, as the governor put it, “get the people of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and surrounding areas back on their feet.”

As the prolonged process of flood recovery continues, we welcome the approach of returning students. The Chapel Hill Herald’s Greg Childress last Sunday detailed town and university plans for the annual “Good Neighbor Initiative.”

In just over four weeks, on Aug. 19, volunteers will go door-to-door in areas with substantial student populations.  Students will be moving in during the previous few days – classes begin Aug. 20.

Teams including local police, town officials and students will explain about parking restrictions, noise levels, alcohol, parties and trash – perennial potential friction-points between students and neighboring year-round residents.

Lee Storrow, a Town Council member who not long ago was a student himself, is a supporter of the initiative, noting that “constant turnover” can be a challenge for the non-student residents. “Every year is a new experience and anew relationship-building opportunity,” he said last week.

We suspect that, for all the town-gown tension that comes with the many benefits of living in a university community, most residents this year will welcome the flood of new and returning students as far preferable to the flood of overflowing streams and storm sewers.