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County mayor to seek state aid for flood damage costs

August 7th, 2012 10:00 pm by Becky Campbell

County mayor to seek state aid for flood damage costs

Damage to roads and bridges in Washington County during a flood on Sunday is approaching $1 million, much of which will come right out of the county budget.
And private property damage — including nine homes destroyed and more than 100 damaged in the Dry Creek community alone — is around $2 million at this point.
“We’ve got probably $700,000 worth of damage right now,” just on roads and bridges, “and we’re still looking,” said Johnny Deakins, Washington County road superintendent. The bridge can be replaced through a state bridge program.
“The roads, that comes 100 percent out of my budget,” Deakins said.
“We’ve got two culverts out on Deakins Creek, a bridge out on Rock House Road and the Methodist Camp road is a total wash out,” he said. “On Dry Creek we have a house in the road and we have erosion on the edges of roads ...the shoulder’s missing.”
That house blocking part of Dry Creek Road belongs to 65-year-old Doug Wilson. He was inside when rushing water ripped the house from it’s foundation Sunday night and carried it about half the length of a football field.
Wilson signed an agreement with the county Tuesday that will allow the road department to move the house, which is a total loss. It will likely be moved today.
Wilson, like his neighbors along Dry Creek Road, didn’t have flood insurance. Homeowners insurance will not cover flood damage and officials said it appears no one affected by the disaster carried flood insurance.
A clean-up team from Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief arrived Tuesday morning to help residents clear out mud and debris so they can try to get their living arrangements back in order.
Kathy Henry, one of those disaster relief workers, said about 15 volunteers were on scene Tuesday and the group will return today to continue helping.
The organization is comprised of three Baptist associations — Jefferson County, Nolichucky and Holston. Volunteers from the group were also involved in helping area residents clean up and rebuild after the 2011 tornadoes hit.
Along with moving mud and debris, Henry said volunteers also offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on.
“As well as cleaning up we try to listen,” and lend support as homeowners grapple with what happened.
To keep those relief workers and other along Dry Creek Road safe, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office asked anyone not involved in the damage assessment and recovery efforts to stay away.
Dry Creek Road is blocked at both ends by sheriff’s deputies, and only residents and those involved in the cleanup efforts are being allowed through.
Even with the cleanup work on Tuesday, yards and homes were still littered with debris of all kinds and thick mud — ankle deep in some areas — along Dry Creek Road as residents and relief workers began the arduous task of cleaning up after heavy rain on Sunday sent a torrent of water through the area.
That task was definitely in full swing, but residents there still need help.
County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the early damage estimate is around $2 million, far from the threshold of $8.5 million before FEMA will provide financial assistance.
Eldridge said he will make a plea in Nashville for state assistance to help Washington County residents recover.
Anything associated with cleaning up any publicly owned property will come from the county budget, but “we haven’t even started to think about how we deal with the uninsured property.”
“What we’re waiting on right now is just an idea of the scope,” of the damage. “What we’re trying to determine is a dollar value of the damage. As soon as we’ve got that, then we will take off to Nashville to see what the opportunity is,” for state assistance.
Eldridge said the $2 million in damage doesn’t include any uninsured loss from the city of Johnson City. If there is a significant amount of uninsured damage reported in Johnson City, by residents or by the city itself, it could be enough to reach the $8.5 million threshold for FEMA assistance.
That threshold amount would also include flood damage from Carter and Unicoi counties that is not covered by insurance.
Eldridge said there has already been assistance offered by Lowe’s and a store manager was on Dry Creek Road Tuesday to assess what type of supplies residents will need.
“From all indications we’re going to see the same community relief effort that we saw,” after the 2011 tornados, Eldridge said.
He said residents along Dry Creek still don’t have power and that can’t be restored until officials determine homes are safe.
“We can’t get power to them until we determine they have a structure that’s safe to put power into. A lot of these places aren’t going to be.”
Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said a level three state of emergency was declared for the whole of Tennessee Monday. The flooding in the counties of Washington, Carter and Unicoi prompted the declaration.
The level three emergency means certain personnel that may be useful in a disaster situation are brought together to assist. These personnel include people with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the National Guard and the Department of Safety. TEMA officials from the Knoxville office were also sent to the area to assess damages and are among the workers in the Dry Creek area today.
Flener said TEMA’s main responsibility beyond helping in damage assessment would be to organize assistance requested by county governments. He said so far only Washington County has requested assistance from TDOT to repair a section of U.S. Highway 81 and for a truck load of water to be delivered to the Lamar community command post.

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