Governor Bill Haslam is asking President Donald Trump to make federal assistance available immediately to help the state recover from powerful storms that struck over Memorial Day weekend.
The governor is specifically requesting federal public assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be available to the 12 Tennessee counties hit hard by the storm.
Members of Tennessee's Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. added their voices, urging the president to quickly approve the governor's request. The letter was signed by both senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, as well as all nine of Tennessee's representatives.
The federal money would go toward reimbursing local and state governments, along with paying certain private nonprofit organizations for work done to repair or remove debris after the storm. The request specifically names Blount, Cumberland, Fayette, Knox, Loudon Morgan, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Sevier, Shelby and Smith counties.
If approved, Shelby County would also receive direct assistance to help residents that meet disaster relief eligibility requirements.
On May 31, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency director Patrick Sheehan requested FEMA to send federal teams to Tennessee to do a preliminary damage assessment. According to the governor's office, those assessments showed utilities alone suffered $15.9 million worth in damage in the above listed counties. Local governments also paid more than $14.9 million for emergency work and debris removal.
"Scores of Tennesseans suffered in the aftermath of these storms, with many left with destroyed or very damaged homes,” Sheehan said in the release. “The State of Tennessee will continue working with local, non-governmental, and federal partners to ensure any qualified assistance is provided as quickly as possible.”
Homeowners in Alcoa were relieved to hear of the possible FEMA assistance.
"We've had a lot of damage, and it's amazing that no one got hurt so I'm very pleased that they are working towards it. I'm hoping that the county can actually see something from it," said Kelley McClanahan whose home was damaged during the storms.
Down the street, David Logsdon said FEMA's assistance is greatly needed.
"I'm sure we could probably use it, there was a lot of damage done and not everyone had insurance," Logsdon added.
By law FEMA cannot duplicate benefits provided by insurance but they can help in other ways.
The National Weather Service said the storms did not show any evidence of tornadoes, but were instead part of a rare severe weather pattern known as a "derecho" -- a fast-moving storm that brings intense straight-line winds. According to the NWS, the most hard hit areas saw winds comparable to a strong EF-0 tornado at 70 to 80 mph.
KUB said 50,000 people lost power at the height of the storm after winds knocked over utility poles and trees, downing power lines across a number of roads.
For Knox County to be eligible for FEMA assistance, they must have expenses of at least $1.56 million. After their preliminary damage assessment, Knox Co. met the threshold. Damages to KUB utilities were around $1.1 million and costs for Knox Co. Parks and Recreation were around $220,000.
Sevier County EMA Director John Matthews told 10News the FEMA assistance is greatly needed after their utility company had been hit twice before the latest round of storms.
Sevier County faced around $500,000 in damage to their electric system after the storms during Memorial Day weekend.
They previously had damage to their electric system of $5 million during the November wildfires and during another storm on May 4, 2017.
Matthews said FEMA chose not to provide assistance to their electric system after the wildfires and they were not eligible for assistance after the May 4 storm.
Across East Tennessee, thousands more saw similar damage.
Concord Park at the Cove had alone took $150,000 worth of damage and had to close after winds flattened trees. It reopened to the public last Friday.
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