Assessment teams from Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in the Dry Creek community today evaluating damage left behind by a disastrous flood Sunday that damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes.
The new development was announced Thursday by Jim Basham, head of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, after he, Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey and others local officials toured properties damaged by the raging water.
Basham said state and local teams have been surveying damage in all three counties — Washington, Carter and Unicoi — hit by the flood.
“We have sufficient damage that yesterday the governor sent a letter to the president through FEMA requesting that FEMA come in and do a preliminary damage assessment for individual (homeowners) assistance,” Basham said.
The FEMA teams are looking for “damage to homes.”
If FEMA determines there is enough damage in the area, Gov. Bill Haslam can then ask for a presidential declaration for individual assistance. That could open the door for residents to receive up to $30,000 in reimbursement funds.
The process could be lengthy, Basham said, and he urged homeowners to keep all receipts for purchases made for cleanup and repairs. They will need those receipts to be reimbursed.
Residents also will have to register with FEMA, but that won’t happen until a declaration for individual assistance is issued.
Basham and Ramsey had only high praise for the volunteer cleanup efforts already under way.
“There’s something about a spirit that happens when things like this take place. People come together and help each other,” Ramsey said.
He commended all the hard work by volunteers and emergency workers during this disaster.
“Right now we’re still gathering information. We still don’t know what we can do,” he said.
One hard-hit area that likely will not qualify for federal aid is the faith-based Buffalo Mountain Camp.
Camp Executive Director Jason Onks said he and others are still trying to document all the damage, which will probably have to be repaired by donations and volunteer efforts.
Onks was home with his young son and visiting sister when the storm hit at the camp Sunday. His living quarters were not damaged, but much of the rest of the camp wasn’t spared from the flood.
“Water is a powerful thing and we just had so much so fast. It all came down the hills and fed into Ramsey Creek,” which flows through the camp. Ramsey Creek overflowed within 15 minutes after the rain started Sunday.
“There was so much water coming down so fast,” he said. The water swept trees and other woodland debris into Ramsey Creek, which choked the flow and diverted the creek into the camp road. The powerful flow eroded the shoulder of the road and pushed large chunks of asphalt up.
The road leading to the camp, Methodist Camp Road, is a county road so highway department workers have been ripping up the asphalt that’s left so repair work can begin.
Onks said many people want to volunteer to help in the cleanup process, but right now the goal is to get some of the infrastructure repaired.
He said anyone who does want to help should visit the camp website a www.buffalomountaincamp.org to sign up. Camp staff will tap into that list of volunteers once cleanup can begin, he said.
Ramsey Creek feeds into Dry Creek, and that sent water further down the mountain. Homes down the road were flooded with water, mud and debris.
Volunteer organizations are working throughout Dry Creek helping residents clean up. An emergency command post is set up at Cherry Grove Baptist Church where residents can get a meal, water and cleaning supplies. There also are a shower and laundry trailers for residents to use.
Residents who need assistance of any kind can call the Holston Baptist Association at 929-1196. To report flood damage, whether you live in Washington County or Johnson City, call the Washington County Mayor’s Office at 753-1666. For assistance with lodging, clothing and essential medication replacement, call the American Red Cross at 378-8700.