NASHVILLE — Ten Tennessee lawmakers whose districts were severely affected by recent wildfires or tornadoes have appealed to President Barack Obama to support Governor Bill Haslam’s request for disaster relief. The letter urgently asking for disaster assistance under the Stafford Act was written by Senators Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), Steve Southerland (R-Morristown), Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), and Representatives Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) John Forgety (R-Athens), Dan Howell (R-Georgetown), Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) and Ron Travis (R-Dayton).
A presidential disaster declaration would help expedite the process for rebuilding, including costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and repair of roads and bridges. It could also help qualifying individuals affected by the disaster with direct assistance.
The letter said, “On behalf of our constituents in Sevier, Coffee, McMinn, Polk and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee, we join with the members of Tennessee’s delegation in the United State Congress in full support of Governor Bill Haslam’s request to declare a major disaster pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act as a result of the severe wildfires and tornadoes that impacted our state beginning November 28, 2016.”
“We respectfully request that you approve Governor Haslam’s request and hope you will consider our State’s request as soon as possible,” the legislators continued.
The severe wildfires that swept through Sevier County, Tennessee, beginning November 28, required the evacuation of over 14,000 residents and visitors and led to 14 fatalities and 134 reported injuries. The wildfires damaged or destroyed over 2,200 homes, businesses and other structures. At its peak, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency estimated that over 1,300 people occupied six Red Cross and independently-operated shelters.
The severe weather that impacted 10 counties in East Tennessee on November 29, produced 5 tornadoes and led to 4 fatalities and 12 reported injuries. It caused structural damage and downed powerlines throughout East Tennessee, especially in Coffee, McMinn, Polk and Sequatchie counties.
The governor’s request for disaster relief has also been supported by Tennessee’s congressional delegation.