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

Nine Tennessee counties have been granted federal aid following the tornado outbreak on Friday and Saturday.
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 oversees WPLN’s special projects, produces the Curious Nashville podcast, and edits freelance contributions. Since arriving in Nashville in 2011, he’s covered major breaking news, tapped into data and public records for civics stories, and featured inspiring people and unusual tales. He lives in East Nashville with his wife and daughter and dabbles in hobbies like juggling, gardening, and birdwatching.
Paige Pfleger covers criminal justice for WPLN News. Previously she has worked in Central Ohio at WOSU News, covering criminal justice and the addiction crisis, and was named Ohio's reporter of the year by the Associated Press in 2019. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR, The Washington Post, Marketplace, and PRI's The World, and she has worked in the newsrooms of The Tennessean, Michigan Radio, WHYY, Vox and NPR headquarters in DC.