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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Requests Major Disaster Declaration for Federal Disaster Relief in 58 Counties

Friday, March 22, 2019 | 05:20pm

Flooding and Severe Storms Cause $151.3 Million Impact to Local and State Emergency Response, Infrastructure, & Roads

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee sent a formal request today to President Donald Trump for a Major Disaster Declaration to make federal recovery assistance available to city and county jurisdictions impacted in February’s significant flooding and severe storms.

“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.”

Since the heavy rain, major flooding, and severe storms began on Feb. 6, 83 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have reported some level of flood damage and severe weather impact. 

Gov. Lee’s request specifically asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make the Public Assistance (PA) program available to 58 Tennessee counties impacted by the flooding and severe storms from Feb. 6, 2019, onward.

The PA request includes the counties of:  Anderson, Bedford, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Cheatham, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Decatur, Dekalb, Dickson, Dyer, Fentress, Gibson, Giles, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Hawkins, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lake, Lauderdale, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, McNairy, Moore, Morgan, Obion, Overton, Perry, Rhea, Roane, Robertson, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Tipton, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, and Weakley.

On March 8, 2019, Director Patrick Sheehan of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) requested FEMA send federal teams to Tennessee to begin joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) to quantify the magnitude of the flooding damage at the county level.

Based on the FEMA joint PDAs, the requested counties demonstrated they had met or surpassed federally-established loss thresholds to qualify for relief through FEMA’s PA program.

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,” 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.

Information about FEMA's PA program is at:  https://www.fema.gov/public-assistance-local-state-tribal-and-non-profit.

Gov. Lee’s declaration request also asks FEMA to make available the federal Individual Assistance (IA) program in the counties of Decatur, Hardin, Humphreys, Perry, and Sevier, 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 at:  https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4294-4297/updates/fact-sheet-what-femas-individual-assistance-program.

This week, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) received $10 million in emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help expedite repairs to the state’s highway network. The department currently estimates damages from February’s storms total more than $83 million. TDOT has already initiated 32 emergency contracts in the amount of $56 million. TDOT will continue to work closely with the FHWA for reimbursement for these costs.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is coordinating with partners to assist farmers following the excessive rainfall. Flooding and washouts in low-lying areas and river bottomlands, particularly in West Tennessee, have affected winter wheat and cover crops, which are planted to protect against soil loss. Farmers in counties experiencing a crop loss of 30 percent or more may qualify for a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation, making them and farmers in adjacent counties eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans.

“Governor Lee and I have seen firsthand the impact of this flooding on farmers,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “We will continue to work with USDA to ensure that damage assessments are conducted, and we are prepared to support agricultural disaster designations where appropriate. It’s critical that these farms return to operation as soon as possible, particularly with the planting season upon us.”

More information about resources for farmers affected by flooding is available at:  www.tn.gov/agriculture

The State Emergency Operations Center in Nashville has been operational since February 23, 2019, and Tennessee remains in a State of Emergency due to the ongoing flooding in many middle and west Tennessee counties.

Flood recovery information on debris removal, donations, volunteering, and myriad other resources is available at https://www.tn.gov/tema/get-involved/flooding-and-severe-weather-response.html.

About the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency: TEMA’s mission is to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery from man-made, natural and technological hazards in a professional and efficient manner in concert with our stakeholders. Follow TEMA on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and, at www.tn.gov/tema.

About ReadyTN:  ReadyTN is a mobile device application from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) providing emergency preparedness, response, and recovery information to Tennesseans.  Ready TN is available for mobile devices running Apple and Android operating systems.  For more information on ReadyTN’s features and on downloading, visit www.tn.gov/tema/ready-tn.html.