As Atlanta continues to clean debris away from downtown streets after a devastating tornado pummeled the southern capital last week, Gov. Sonny Perdue tallied damages in a letter to the president, requesting federal emergency declaration status.
Today Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for individual assistance to aid residents of Atlanta and Fulton County with recovery efforts in the wake of storms that hit the city on March 14 and March 15. Perdue said the request covering government buildings and public costs due to the storms is still pending.
Fourteen confirmed tornado reports came from a total of 48 tornado warnings issued for Georgia by the National Weather Service on March 14. Perdue said 29 counties reported damage after a series of severe weather systems and super cells “raked the state for 36 hours.”
In Fulton County, significant damage occurred to state and local facilities and Atlanta’s publicly recognizable landmarks: Georgia Dome, World Congress Center, Grady Memorial Hospital, 2 Peachtree Street State Office Building, King Memorial Center, Sam Nunn Federal Building, parts of Georgia State University campus and three schools. In addition, Oakland Cemetery, Centennial Olympic Park, Hurt Plaza Park, Butler Park and Woodruff Park sustained significant damage.
Damage to public high-rise buildings in Atlanta’s business district caused streets full of debris and prompted closure of main commercial throughways. Among them were: CNN Center, Omni Hotel, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Building, Georgia Pacific, Equitable Building and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
In regard to residential property, much of the damage occurred east of downtown in an area known as Cabbagetown – an area inhabited by lower income and working income households and elderly renters, according to Perdue. The most visible damage was reported at the Cotton Mill Lofts, where two floors of a five-story building collapsed, he added. Officials evacuated 70 elderly residents from the Antoine Graves Tower, a public housing development.
A total of 502 rental units were affected, including 16 destroyed and 133 having sustained major damage. Official reports showed 267 single family homes were affected including 27 destroyed and 49 having sustained major damage.
The storms prompted closure of 14 roads including entrance and exit ramps to Interstate Highways 75/85 in downtown Atlanta. Power was disrupted to 384,241 Georgia Power households until Sunday night.
Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John W. Oxendine said damage from the storms and tornado reached an estimated $250 million in insured losses.
“That figure includes damage from across the state, such as Polk and Bartow Counties, where damage was quite extensive,” Oxendine said. “This storm caused the largest loss yet recorded in our state for tornado damage.”
Perdue declared a state of emergency in Fulton County after the March 14 storm struck. The state of emergency cleared the way for the massive deployment of state personnel and equipment and paved the way for the presidential declaration.
The federal declaration covers individual assistance and can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration will also be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
“We have a great deal of work to do and we appreciate the prompt response by President Bush and FEMA,” said Governor Perdue. “It will greatly help the citizens whose lives and communities have been disrupted.”
More storms moved through the area this week, adding to the anxiety of public safety officials in regard to the possibility of falling glass and debris from tornado-damaged buildings.
Residents and business owners in Fulton County who sustained losses can apply for assistance by registering online at http://www.fema.gov/ or by calling (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired.
Source: Office of the Governor of Georgia
Associated Press contributed to this article
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