Tenn. governor requests Major Disaster Declaration to help 58 storm-damaged counties

In this March 2019 picture from our NewsChannel 9 SkyView , flood water contaminated with E. coli surrounds the home of a retired veteran living near Hunter Road in Ooltewah. The area flooded after heavy rains began in February. (Image: WTVC)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has officially asked President Trump to make a Major Disaster Declaration so that 58 counties, including several in our area, can get federal help after last month's severe storms & flooding.

On February 6, heavy rain, major flooding, and severe storms began in the state. According to Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), 83 of Tennessee's 95 counties have reported some level of flood damage and severe weather impact.

Governor Lee's request specifically calls for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make the Public Assistance (PA) program available to 58 counties impacted, including:

  • Bledsoe County
  • Hamilton County
  • Marion County
  • Rhea County
  • Sequatchie County

“The severe flooding has left many Tennessee jurisdictions unsure about how to fund the unexpected need to repair infrastructure and pay for their emergency measures,” and Gov. Lee said. “I believe we have demonstrated the need for federal assistance is necessary and if granted, will lessen some of the financial burden on local resources for flood response and recovery.”

One area in Hamilton County that is still suffering the effects of the storms is the Flagstone subdivision near Hunter Road in Ooltewah. The area was flooded and didn't drain, and E. coli was found in the standing water in early March. Last week, Hamilton County EMA Director Chris Adams said there is essentially "nothing the county can do" to alleviate the situation, having exhausted the resources available to them.

TEMA says the qualifying losses for county, municipal, state agency, and utility infrastructure impacts and emergency expenditures totaled $68.3 million due to the flooding and severe storms.

“We expect to add more counties to both FEMA’s preliminary damage assessments and to the Major Disaster Declaration request,” TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan said. “As flood waters recede in other impacted counties, we are confident with additional time, more damages will surface which will meet and exceed the federal per capita loss requirements.”

FEMA’s PA program reimburses local and state governments, utilities, and certain private, non-profit organizations for emergency protective measures and debris removal, and for repairs to roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings, and equipment as the result of a federally-declared disaster.

You can learn more about FEMA's PA program on their website here.

Gov. Lee’s declaration request also asks FEMA to make available the federal Individual Assistance (IA) program in the counties of Decatur, Hardin, and Perry, which, if awarded, would provide direct help to Tennessee residents in the requested counties who demonstrate eligibility for the IA program.

Information on FEMA’s IA program is on their website here.

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