Haslam seeks federal aid in repairing wildfire, storm damage

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today sent a request to President Barack Obama to expedite a major disaster declaration for five Tennessee counties in order to get needed federal assistance to aid in recovery from wildfires and severe storms.

The counties included in Haslam’s declaration request are Coffee, McMinn, Polk, Sequatchie and Sevier.

“My goal is to help ensure these counties have what they need to rebuild and recover from these heartbreaking disasters,” Haslam said. “The state and our local partners continue to work through the damage assessments, provide necessary services to help those in need, and get our neighbors and friends back on their feet.”

A presidential disaster declaration could help the five counties with costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and rebuilding and repairing roads, bridges, water control facilities, buildings, utilities and recreational facilities. A federal disaster declaration, if awarded, may also help qualifying individuals with direct assistance.

Additional information about state and federal assistance, should it be granted, will be released when details are available.

On Nov. 28, wildfires rapidly spread through Sevier County, causing mandatory evacuations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The wildfires caused 14 fatalities and damaged or destroyed more than 2,200 structures in Sevier County.

Overnight on Nov. 29, five tornadoes touched down in Tennessee with two weather-related fatalities in Polk County.

UPDATE/Note: The state’s congressional delegation has written a letter in support of the governor’s request. It’s below.

Joint news release from Tennessee members of Congress:

WASHINGTON – Members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation today urged President Obama to quickly approve Governor Haslam’s request for a major disaster declaration for the State of Tennessee to help five Tennessee counties impacted by wildfires and severe weather in November rebuild and recover.

“Governor Bill Haslam has submitted a request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance for Sevier County, which was affected by wildfires and for Coffee, McMinn, Polk and Sequatchie counties which were affected by severe weather and tornadoes,” the members wrote President Obama in a letter. “We strongly urge you to approve Governor Haslam’s request, and we hope you will consider our State’s request as soon as possible.”

The letter was signed by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Representatives Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Scott DesJarlais, John Duncan, Stephen Fincher, Chuck Fleischmann and Phil Roe.

The full text of the letter:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the State of Tennessee, we are writing to support Governor Bill Haslam’s request to declare a major disaster pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act as a result of the severe wildfires and tornadoes that impacted our state beginning November 28, 2016.

Governor Bill Haslam has submitted a request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance for Sevier County, which was affected by wildfires and for Coffee, McMinn, Polk and Sequatchie counties which were affected by severe weather and tornadoes. We strongly urge you to approve Governor Haslam’s request, and we hope you will consider our State’s request as soon as possible.

The severe wildfires that swept through Sevier County, Tennessee beginning November 28, required the evacuation of over 14,000 residents and visitors and led to 14 fatalities and 134 reported injuries. The wildfires damaged or destroyed over 2,200 homes, businesses and other structures. At its peak, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency estimated that over 1,300 people occupied six Red Cross and independently-operated shelters.

The severe weather that impacted 10 counties in East Tennessee on November 29, produced 5 tornadoes and led to 4 fatalities and 12 reported injuries. The severe weather caused structural damage and downed powerlines throughout East Tennessee, especially in Coffee, McMinn, Polk and Sequatchie counties.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the beginning of these incidents, and we are grateful for their efforts to respond to Tennessee’s needs. Our offices can provide you with any additional information should you have any questions.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *