TENNESSEE, USA — Governor Bill Lee on Monday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Northwest and Middle Tennessee after deadly tornadoes and severe storms early Saturday morning claimed the lives of five people.
Lee's order will facilitate relief efforts in those parts of the state and allow operation flexibility in the affected counties. This includes allowing people to assist with storm damage cleanup and suspending restrictions on vehicles transporting emergency supplies.
“The impact of severe weather in Tennessee and our neighboring states has been devastating,” Lee said. “We remain committed to providing the necessary resources to assist Tennesseans as they recover from this tragic loss.”
Lee has also requested federal emergency relief funds for Cheatham, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Obion, Stewart, and Weakley counties for debris removal and emergency protection measures.
On Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden granted an emergency declaration and will make federal assistance available for those nine counties.
Officials said a total of five weather-related fatalities were confirmed by the Tennessee Department of Health. Three were reported in Lake County, one in Shelby County, and one in Obion County.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 8,000 additional consumers impacted by weekend storms now have electric power restored to their homes and businesses over the past 24-hours through the efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority and local power company personnel working in northwest Tennessee and western Kentucky.
Around 19,000 remain without power in the region, down from more than 254,000 that lost service.
TVA crews are working to restore power to the three remaining customer connection points still without service. Restoration efforts near Lexington, TN., are complicated by the need to rebuild complex transmission structures that support multiple high-voltage lines, officials said.
Near Mayfield, KY., the power infrastructure for both Mayfield Electric and Water Systems and TVA was extensively damaged by the storms, which were the most destructive to impact the region since the April 2011 tornado outbreak, TVA said. Repairs to both systems must be completed before power can flow reliably to residents. Complete restoration will likely take some time.
Numerous trees and power lines are down and localized damages were reported in multiple counties, TEMA said.
The State Emergency Operations Center was activated at Level 3 and State of Tennessee personnel are supporting response efforts and resource requests in the impacted areas.
The American Red Cross said that volunteers were working to make sure people had shelter, food, and supplies as they begin recovering after the storms. They said emergency shelters were available in affected communities and volunteers will assess the damage to determine how they can best help the communities.
They said they provided more than 160 blood products to hospitals in response to the tornadoes and will continue to provide supplies as needed.
Anyone who needs help can reach out to the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or by visiting their website.
Officials said Gov. Lee surveyed damaged areas Saturday afternoon and met with local leaders on the storm response.
Officials also said the Crisis Cleanup Line has been activated at 800-451-1954, accepting calls from Tennesseans in counties affected by the storm who need volunteer assistance in cleaning up.
He said that damage in the state has risen to multi-million dollar levels, but could not give an exact figure. He also said that a large number of homes were destroyed in Stewart and Dickson counties.
However, he said 10 people were injured and taken to the hospital, while 24 were considered walking-wounded.
Lee also commended the steps communities took ahead of the storm, evacuating when necessary and staying alert the day before it arrived.
You can watch him speak below.
As of 1:20 p.m., Knox County crews are reporting 28 trees down in the county.
Dec. 11, 2021: Strong storms hit East Tennessee
Emergency crews also responded to a tree that fell on a house in Jefferson County. They said it happened in the 900 block of Burchfield Road in Dandridge. They said the people inside were rescued with minor injuries.