A man pushes his daughter in a stroller through a tornado-ravaged neighborhood. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Gov. Bill Lee sought federal emergency assistance Monday for nine counties struck by tornadoes Friday and early Saturday killing four people and doing millions of dollars in damage.
The governor also issued an order giving counties flexibility to deal with the disasters. For example, individuals will be allowed to help in storm damage cleanup and restrictions will be suspended on vehicles transporting emergency supplies.
“Our emergency officials, first responders and law enforcement brought hope where there was none in the aftermath of these storms,” Lee said in a Monday statement. “Our effort now will be to bring as much relief as possible to these devastated communities.”
Lee is requesting President Joe Biden make an emergency declaration so federal assistance can become available to Cheatham, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Stewart, Obion and Weakley Counties to handle debris removal and emergency protection.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would reimburse local jurisdictions for work or provide operating assistance if the request is approved.
Lee indicated the state will ask for a major disaster declaration for jurisdictions that qualify once local officials complete an assessment of storm damage to make FEMA’s programs available.
Two lines of severe weather swept across the state from Friday evening through Saturday morning, spawning at least seven tornadoes in West and Middle Tennessee. The storms killed at least four and left more than 150,000 people without power while destroying buildings and homes in small towns such as Dresden and Tiptonville.
The governor’s new executive order also expedites special transportation permit approval to provide services connected to the damage; gives temporary exceptions from federal rules and regulations to commercial motor vehicle operators; waives state residency requirements for individuals to take part in nutrition and child wellbeing programs; directs insurance companies to assist policy-holders and allows insurance professionals from other states to provide services; permits health-care professionals from other states to work in weather-affected areas; allows pharmacies to dispense extra 30-day supplies of maintenance prescriptions; permits issuance of temporary contractor licenses; allows flexibility for vacation lodging services to victims; waives fees for duplicate driver’s license or photo IDs; waives state and county clerk fees for lost and damaged motor vehicle titles; give flexibility for non-resident security guards and officers in affected areas; and encourages state agencies to assist people affected by mail disruption and displacement.
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