Haslam Seeks Disaster Designation, Signs Executive Order on Storms

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has asked President Obama to declare four Tennessee counties as federal disaster areas following the severe storms that struck the state this week.
Such a declaration would allow Bradley, Greene, Hamilton and Washington counties to access various federal assistance programs.
As local officials and relief agencies complete damage assessments, other counties are expected be added to the disaster area declaration request.
Haslam said he is confident the federal government will expedite the request so Tennessee can get to work helping people rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.
Thirty-four people died and more than 500 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage in Tennessee because of the storms.
And this:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has temporarily suspended limits on the height, weight, length and width of permitted vehicles carrying emergency supplies to the state’s storm-ravaged communities.
The executive order applies to vehicles carrying emergency equipment or supplies on behalf of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the emergency management agencies of other state.
The order also suspends limitations on the hours of service on operators of commercial motor vehicles carrying fuel, food, water and other emergency supplies.
Haslam said it is his priority to ensure that food, water and other emergency relief supplies get to those in need as soon as possible. Thirty-four people were killed in Tennessee by the tornadoes that hit the state Wednesday night and early Thursday.
The state’s congressional delegation wrote a letter to President Obama backing the application for disaster relief. The text is below.

Joint news release from the office of Sen. Lamar Alexander:
WASHINGTON – Members of the Tennessee U.S. congressional delegation announced today that they have sent a letter to President Barack Obama supporting Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s request that he “declare a federal disaster in Hamilton, Bradley, Greene, and Washington counties as a result of the severe storms that swept across” Tennessee this past week. Should the governor seek disaster declarations for other counties, the Tennessee delegation will support his request. The full text of the letter follows.
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the State of Tennessee, we respectfully request that you declare a federal disaster in Bradley, Greene, Hamilton, and Washington counties as a result of the severe storms, flash flooding and tornadoes that struck the state beginning on April 25, 2011.
Governor Bill Haslam has requested federal disaster assistance to respond to the devastation caused throughout Tennessee due to this historic tornado outbreak, and we expect a separate request will be forthcoming to respond to the flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Flooding in many of our communities will only get worse in the coming days, and the unprecedented river stages are threatening the entire levee system.
State and local officials are only beginning to be able to assess the level of damage to infrastructure, private property and our economy. Many of the communities affected by these storms and rising flood waters are the same areas devastated by the May 2010 floods. In addition to all of the homes and businesses destroyed by the tornadoes, the flooding along the Mississippi River is forecast to exceed the great flood of 1937 in some areas, and reach the third highest level on record in Memphis by May 10.
Federal assistance is critical to help our state and local governments initiate recovery efforts and to start repairing infrastructure. Like so many areas throughout the Southeast ravaged by these storms, our communities are overwhelmed by the destruction and need federal assistance. Public and Individual Assistance in Bradley, Greene, Hamilton, and Washington counties will help communities with debris removal and make victims eligible for a number of vital disaster assistance programs. The Tennessee delegation and state and local officials stand ready to work together with federal officials to make sure that Tennesseans receive the help they need to get back on their feet.
Thank you for your expedited consideration of our State’s request, and we will provide you with more information about our State’s needs as information is available.

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