2010-06-17 / Front Page

BREAKING NEWS: Courthouse flooded

Tuesday deluge gets through roof, damage is extensive
By KIP BURKE
Ceiling tiles fell onto desks and rain water covered the floor in the Wilkes County Probate Court office and several others Wednesday morning.Ceiling tiles fell onto desks and rain water covered the floor in the Wilkes County Probate Court office and several others Wednesday morning.            The Wilkes County courthouse suffered significant water damage Tuesday night as torrential rains got past tarps covering part of the roof under construction.
            The roof work was nearing completion and the roofing company had covered the unfinished area with tarps. “The tarps apparently failed and let water in,” said Wilkes County Administrator David Tyler. “I knew we were in trouble when I opened the back door and found water standing three inches deep. This is overwhelming – we’re busy getting cleaned up enough to evaluate the damage.”
            Water poured into the courthouse during a unusually heavy three-hour rain that dropped some four to five inches of rain in Washington Tuesday night. The leaks caused heavy damage to hundreds of record books, law books, and other paper documents, along with computers, copiers, and other office equipment.
            Water damaged the Probate office, the county magistrate’s office, and the county administrative offices, along with Tyler’s office and that of County Commission Chairman Sam Moore. “Water just pouring out of these books full of years of county budget records,” Tyler said, “but luckily they’re kept on computer. Thank God the probate records in the vault were covered with plastic because of duct work yesterday, so most of them are undamaged.”
            “This hallway is our office for now,” Probate Judge Thomas Charping said as he and Probate Clerk Connie Zello worked in a hallway. “We’re trying to get a handle on what’s wet and where we can dry things out before they’re ruined. This is going to be a long process.”
            The law library’s shelves are groaning with soaked law books. “Some of these books survived the courthouse fire, but they’ll be ruined now,” Tyler said.
            The cleanup was underway immediately Wednesday morning with emergency cleaning crews, county employees, and a detail of prisoners hauling out soaked ceiling tiles, vacuuming water from carpets, and moving wet paper to recover.
            The next chore will be assessing damage to paper records to determine what can be salvaged or replaced, Tyler said. “We’ve got to get all the water up first, but then we’ve got to figure out how to save these old records from being lost.”

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