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Eastgate Flooding May Have Permanent Effects

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CHAPEL HILL — Two weeks after floodwaters swept through a Chapel Hill shopping center, "Closed" signs still hang on many merchants' doors. The storm may have been the last straw for some businesses.

To the ears of employees at Play It Again Sports, the sound of a cash register ringing up sales is music.

"Very relieved" is how Matt Waugh describes everyone's reaction to having their doors open again. "We were tired of doing all the hard work. We just wanted to come in and sell."

Two weeks ago, the store was under 5 feet of water and a floating oil tank had leaked everywhere. The store re-opened Saturday, after some major repairs.

"We re-painted everything from 5 feet down. We had to re-do the walls, re-carpet, everything," Waugh said.

Employees of an art gallery spent the weekend putting display cases back in place in preparation of re-opening Monday. But many nearby merchants are not so lucky.

Owners of the Steinway Gallery are apparently re-locating. They have been through two floods at Eastgate, and the sign on the door says they are moving to higher ground.

"I used to come over here all the time for lunch," shopper Bill Bollinger said. "Unfortunately, half the places I eat at are closed."

Bill and Wendy Bollinger hope other merchants do not pack up and leave. They have heard talk of some stores making it, of others deciding to leave.

Officials estimate the damage at $6 million, plus $1 million in lost revenue.

For many Eastgate businesses, that tab is still running. Many of the businesses there did not have flood insurance.


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