TEMA and FEMA begin assessing damage in Hamilton County
Flood damage throughout the Tennessee Valley over the last few weeks has led to a visit from TEMA and FEMA.
The agencies are in town assessing damage in Hamilton County.
This comes two days after Hamilton County Emergency Management officials said they have exhausted all options regarding flood relief.
Channel 3 was not able to follow the crews.
TEMA spokesperson Dean Flener explained through email, “We do in fact discourage media follow-alongs or ride-alongs because they disrupt the process and may cause privacy concerns if the teams are meeting with individuals.”
The assessments are the first step in determining whether the damage is more than what the state is capable of handling on its own.
“I've been out on numerous occasions and I've seen water standing where I've never seen it standing in this county,” said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.
Mayor Coppinger says like other local officials, he has done everything he can to help with relief.
Hamilton County is now one of 54 counties in the state vying for help from the government.
“We are trying to accommodate as many people as quickly as possible,” Coppinger said. “Hopefully, the governor will be able to ask the president for a declaration and we're hopeful that's going to happen.”
In order for the county to receive emergency funding, Coppinger says we have to meet a threshold of $1.2-million or more in damages. According to a county emergency management spokesperson, February's rain caused an estimated $1.7 million in damages.
“Unfortunately, we're comfortable that we're going to meet that threshold,” Coppinger explained. “That's not a good thing, but the good news is that TEMA and FEMA are out there willing to help to get a declared disaster, here in Hamilton County.”
Since the flooding, local emergency agencies have faced challenges dealing with damage on private properties. Because they are privately owned, those agencies say they are limited in what they can do.
Channel 3 asked Mayor Coppinger if relief funding from the government would benefit those properties.
Mayor Coppinger answered, “I'm not really certain if you can or not. Primarily what they focus on is infrastructure such as your roads. That's what they're looking at right now.”
Once TEMA and FEMA crews finish statewide assessments they will submit the information to Governor Bill Lee. It will be up to Governor Lee to request a state of emergency declaration from President Trump.
Channel 3 reached out to Congressman Chuck Fleichmann about the flood damage across the state.
“I have been monitoring the flooding that has devastated communities across East Tennessee” said Fleischmann. “I applaud Governor Lee, state and local officials, and disaster relief personnel for their swift action to provide assistance to Tennesseans who are dealing with the damage and destruction caused by this emergency. I will continue to communicate with Governor Lee as state leaders move through the damage assessment process and stand ready to work with the Governor as final funding determinations are made.”
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