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As Haywood County residents dig out of the devastating flood damages caused by Tropical Storm Fred, there will undoubtedly be a multi-layered response to help those reeling from losses.

The process already started with an outpouring of love and compassion shown by neighbors, churches, regional disaster organizations and friends who have stepped forward to help meet immediate needs. This includes everything from immediate needs such as food, cleaning supplies and meals to helping find temporary homes for those displaced by the disaster.

Now that a federal disaster has been declared because of the tremendous damage caused by Fred, a different level of help is possible — one that can go a longer way toward helping flood victims recoup their losses. The short-term outpouring of support was exactly what was needed, and all signs show these efforts will continue. They have filled the gap between calamity and the time it takes government to mobilize.

Now, with federal help, those who lost homes should be able to replace them. Those whose homes were damaged should receive funding to rebuild and those who couldn’t possibly remove debris from their own property, whether it be in the streams or along the riverbed, will have help in the clean-up process.

The federal disaster declaration will also help replace the needed infrastructure in the county that all depended upon — roads, bridges, sewer lines, public buildings, parks and the list goes on. These are costs for which government units cannot accept donations, and that are so high, a small pool of donors couldn’t possibly cover.

The N.C. General Assembly is also standing in the wings to help. N.C. Rep. Mark Pless said the federal disaster declaration was needed first so the state would know what gaps were left to fill in. He’s pushing for the help coming from the state’s rainy day fund, something that would be less cumbersome than going through the state budgeting process.

The painful lessons from flooding events 17 years ago demonstrated that, even with federal help, there will be costs sustained by individuals that will not be covered. That’s where help from a coalition of nonprofits and the generous contributions of donors will make the difference.

The United Way of Haywood County is the designated agency where donations can be sent to help fill in gaps for those sustaining flood-related losses left by the needs for new appliances, furniture and other larger needs such as transportation or even mortgages, depending on available funds.

A committee is being formed to review applications and divvy out the funds. So far, donations to United Way for flood relief exceed $1 million, with $400,000 coming from the regional real estate organization Canopy. Other sizable donations are pouring in from full- and part-time residents, corporations and nonprofits.

As so many have emphasized, flood relief efforts need to be a marathon, not a sprint.

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