Tennessee Tornado Damages Being Tallied

April 29, 2009

Local government and public utilities near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are facing a combined $8.1 million in emergency expenditures from the April 10 tornadoes at a time when revenues are down and home and business owners are also facing hefty cleanup bills.

The Daily News Journal reported public officials are counting on President Barack Obama to declare the tornadoes a federal disaster in order to allow federal money to pay for 75 percent of costs not covered by insurance.

Officials reported that around $7.5 million must be spent by local and state governments and public utilities to be eligible for federal funding.

Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess says the county, Murfreesboro and public utilities have exceeded the threshold for federal assistance by around $600,000 without counting other counties and state expenses.

“We hope the numbers will hold up,” Burgess said.

The county’s costs come to nearly $1.5 million, including almost $1.1 million for the landfill expense to collect tornado construction debris.

Middle Tennessee Electric reports an estimated $210,607 expense to respond to the tornadoes, and Murfreesboro Electric Department’s overtime bill came to $652,000.

Murfreesboro’s bill, when excluding its electric department, came to $5.8 million. City Manager Roger Haley said last week additional charges may be forthcoming.

Representatives with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency are examining the costs before reporting results that Gov. Phil Bredesen can use to request federal assistance.

Without a declaration, “We’ll have to eat it,” Burgess said.

As the county is already facing a $10 million projected deficit for next year’s budget, the additional costs would be a hard pill to swallow.

“It’s a major concern,” the mayor added. “This is an extraordinary event we have no control over.”

A twister that strengthened to an EF-4 tornado with 166 to 200 miles per hour winds traveled 23.5 miles from west Murfreesboro to the north side of the city. The tornado, which killed two people, was a half-mile wide at its widest point.

The tornadoes destroyed an estimated 118 homes and affected 845. Structural damages are estimated at more than $41 million. Several homes in the Bradyville area in Rutherford County were also affected by a smaller tornado.

Home and business owners will be able to pursue low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration for tornado damages not covered by insurance. The administration issued a “Disaster Declaration” this past week after the governor made the request.


Information from: The Daily News Journal, http://www.dnj.com

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