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President Biden approves disaster assistance for Knox County, others impacted by December arctic blast

Knox, Cocke, and Greene counties were among the 11 Tennessee counties eligible to receive federal aid after late December's bitterly cold winter storms.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday that President Joe Biden approved federal aid for 11 Tennessee counties impacted by last December's deadly winter storms.

Knox, Cocke and Greene counties were among those eligible to receive federal disaster assistance. Biden approved the funding to supplement state, tribal and local efforts to repair damage caused by the bitterly cold, icy weather that occurred between Dec. 22 and Dec. 27. 

The federal money is being made available to local governments and certain private non-profit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work that's needed to repair or replace facilities damaged by the arctic blast. Other Tennessee counties eligible for federal assistance included Coffee, Davidson, Henderson, Maury, Perry, Putnam, Shelby and Washington counties.

FEMA said funding will also be available statewide for hazard mitigation on a cost-sharing basis.

"I appreciate our local, state and federal partners for responding quickly throughout the holidays to gather damage assessments and address needs,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “This assistance will provide much-needed relief to these impacted Tennessee communities.”

On Dec. 23, a blast of arctic air hit East Tennessee. Temperatures plummeted from a high of 47 to 4 degrees in a few hours, and TVA said its Cumberland Fossil Plant and some natural gas plants went offline after being impacted by the extreme temperatures and high winds. The situation led to rolling blackouts across the area on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24. 

"The National Weather Service referred to it as a once-in-a-generation storm. And, it was," the TVA said regarding the weather event. 

The extreme cold weather damaged infrastructure across the area, including bursting pipes in across Knoxville.

TEMA said eight people in Tennessee died as a result of the storm, including six people who died after a house fire in Cumberland County. 

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