Marshall County eligible for disaster assistance

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Marshall County is among 35 Tennessee counties which the Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared eligible for federal disaster assistance as a result of the ice storms and flooding in mid-February.

''This is great news for those counties hit hard by the recent winter storms. If some of the costs can be recovered, it certainly will help," said Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett.

"There will however be a lot of paper work that still has to be filled out so the job of making a claim is just beginning. At least the opportunity to do so is available.''

The assistance allows governments and utilities to be compensated for expenses related to the disaster. Up to 75 percent of allowable expenses can be reimbursed.

"This deadly and devastating storm required a comprehensive and coordinated response from many, and this federal assistance will hopefully provide some relief to these counties that are trying to recover and rebuild," said Gov. Bill Haslam in a news release.

Included counties in addition to Marshall are Anderson, Bedford, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, Fentress, Giles, Grainger, Grundy, Hamblen, Hancock, Hardeman, Jefferson, Knox, Lawrence, Loudon, McMinn, McNairy, Meigs, Monroe, Moore, Morgan, Obion, Overton, Putnam, Roane, Scott, Sevier, Van Buren, Warren and White.

FEMA officials made a preliminary assessment of each county to determine whether its governments and agencies incurred enough per-capita expenses to qualify for disaster relief. Now that the declaration has been made, they will go back and review specific expenses to see which ones qualify for reimbursement.

Qualifying costs include things like debris removal, emergency protective measures, and rebuilding and repairing roads, bridges, water control facilities, buildings, utilities and recreational facilities.

The severe winter weather event began in West Tennessee in the early morning of Feb. 15, with record snow and sleet accumulations and then lesser amounts of ice and freezing rain. The winter storm continued in multiple waves, with sleet, snow, freezing rain, and dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills throughout each region of Tennessee before ending on Feb. 22.

For only the seventh time in the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency's history, the State Emergency Operations Center activated to a Level II-state of emergency as the storm progressed. Emergency services coordinators and TEMA staff maintained operations at the SEOC on a 24-hour basis through the duration of the emergency.

The National Weather Service characterized the event as one of the worst ice storms to hit Tennessee in two decades, and temperatures reached record lows in many parts of the state. Of the 30 reported weather-related fatalities, more than half were due to hypothermia.

At the onset of the storm, the American Red Cross placed 19 shelters on standby, primarily along interstates in counties hit hardest from the winter storm. The Red Cross and many private organizations activated shelters in Blount, Campbell, Coffee, Davidson, Dyer, Fentress, Grainger, Grundy, Hamblen, Knox, Marshall, McMinn, Monroe, Montgomery, Overton, Putnam, Roane, and White counties. At peak, there were more than 290 shelter occupants reported.

Power outages peaked at 67,000 people on Feb. 16, and more than 32,000 people were still without power on Feb. 22. The lack of power forced businesses, universities, K-12 schools and daycares to close, disrupting communities and residents throughout the state.

At least 11 drinking water systems in Cookeville, Knoxville and Johnson City had weather-related issues such as line breaks, frozen pumps, power outages and loss of back-up power.

Multiple state agencies were involved in the response, including the Tennessee departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Insurance, Correction, Environment and Conservation, Finance and Administration General Services, Health, Human Resources, Human Services, Transportation, Military, Safety and the Tennessee National Guard, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Highway Patrol,Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Commission on Aging. The response involved approximately 3,500 state employees.