Tennessee remains under a State of Emergency nearly two weeks after heavy rains caused destructive flooding across the state.
Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Thursday to begin the process for declaring a federal disaster by enabling Federal Highway Emergency Relief.
The order will also help facilitate and repair more than 232 locations on Tennessee state and federal highway damaged by the flooding.
“As waters recede and we are now able to fully review the extent of flooding damage across our state, I signed an executive order as a key step in working with the federal government for further recovery efforts,” Lee said. “We thank the first responders who are working diligently to keep citizens safe and deliver services.”
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said it has also called upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin preliminary damage assessments this week for 54 counties.
Many of those counties are in East Tennessee, including Anderson, Blount, Claiborne, Cocke, Cumberland, Fentress, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, Morgan, Rhea, Scott, Sevier, and Union counties.
Preliminary damage assessment crews with TEMA looked through more than 40 properties in Knox County Wednesday and will slowly make their way across the state.
Their job is to compile figures to see if they meet the threshold for federal disaster aid. That threshold is based on the county population.
TEMA said the federal assessments are to confirm damage figures and provide reimbursement to local governments for repairs to damaged infrastructure and emergency work related to the disaster.
TEMA said it also asked FEMA to conduct PDAs in six counties for the federal Individual Assistance program, including Blount, Hamblen, Knox and Roane counties.
"This does not automatically turn on federal aid funding to Tennessee for this disaster. It is the next step in the process for requesting a Major Disaster Declaration, and FEMA is simply verifying the damage totals we have so far gathered from the counties where flood waters have receded," TEMA said.
TEMA said other counties will be added to the assessment as flood waters recede and local officials can properly assess damages. However, even if Tennessee receives a Major Disaster Declaration from FEMA, TEMA said that wont guarantee impacted Tennesseans will receive help directly for rebuilding and repairing homes.
The assessments will begin the week of March 11 and other assessments are expected to continue for several weeks.
TEMA said 83 of Tennessee's 95 counties have reported damage from flooding.
Currently, Sevier, Scott, Claiborne, Marion, Hawkins, Cocke and Cumberland counties remain under County States of Emergency.
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Authorities say people with damages should take pictures and save any receipts for repairs. A list of EMA contacts by region can be found by clicking here.
If you live in Tennessee and want to volunteer to help flood survivors, you can visit the Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.
If you'd like to volunteer and live outside of Tennessee, you can visit the national site for the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.