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Gov. Lee requests more aid for tornado-damaged Tennessee counties

Tony Gonzalez
Nine Tennessee counties have been granted federal aid following the tornado outbreak on Friday and Saturday.

An emergency declaration has been granted by President Joe Biden and will bring federal assistance to nine counties affected by the weekend’s tornado outbreak.

The counties will qualify for reimbursement for the emergency measures they’re taking. The counties included are: Cheatham, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Obion, Stewart and Weakley.

Gov. Bill Lee has also asked for FEMA help with debris removal and what’s known as a Major Disaster Declaration, which would make federal aid programs available to more individuals.

A major disaster declaration offers more federal resources for individuals, like crisis counseling, unemployment aid, and nutrition assistance. It also allows the state to access funds for not just fixing — but altogether replacing — damaged buildings, roads, or recreational facilities. Plus, it opens up money for more long-term solutions that reduce the impact of future disasters.

In the meantime, the governor signed his own executive order for relief. It temporarily waives certain state and federal rules, like residency requirements for SNAP benefits or fees for getting a duplicate driver’s license.

The order also allows health care professionals to work outside their licensed state, and encourages hotels and other vacation rentals to host tornado victims.

Impacts assessed

As of Monday, the National Weather Service had confirmed 11 tornadoes in Middle Tennessee, including three rated EF-2 strength in Stewart, Dickson and Cheatham counties. Damage at EF-3 strength has also been documented in West Tennessee.

The severe weather caused four deaths and initially knocked out power for 150,000 people.

As of Tuesday morning, power outages were down to about 500 households in Nashville — but fully restoring service could still take until Thursday or Friday. Nashville Electric Service says it has repaired all of its major circuits, but is still working around-the-clock because of the number of power poles broken by the weekend’s storm.

Statewide, outages were around 12,000 as of Monday evening. The largest number is in Decatur County, where a transmission line was damaged.

To get help, or to help survivors of the tornadoes, visit this WPLN News resource page, or consult resources from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

This post was updated with more information about federal aid on at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. 

Tony Gonzalez, a reporter in Nashville since July 2011, covers city news, features inspiring people, and seeks out offbeat stories. He’s also an award-winning juggler and hot chicken advocate who lives in East Nashville with his wife, a professional bookbinder. During his time at The Tennessean newspaper, his investigative reporting and feature stories were honored in the state and nationally. Gonzalez grew up near Chicago and came to Nashville after three years reporting and editing at Virginia's smallest daily newspaper, The News Virginian.
Paige Pfleger is a reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.