Governor, state officials tour flooded region

On May 4, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris

Dyersburg State Gazette
May 4, 2011

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam did an aerial tour of Northwest Tennessee on Tuesday to survey the flooding taking place in the region. He also asked President Barack Obama to authorize emergency funding of $10 million to assist the state and local jurisdictions with evacuation preparedness and activities in West Tennessee due to flooding that began April 21, 2011, a result of the record rainfall on the Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. If this request is granted, local governments in Dyer, Lake, Shelby and Stewart counties would have access to direct federal assistance for evacuation actions.

“Our priority right now is saving lives and protecting property in West Tennessee as we continuously monitor the flooding situation,” Haslam said. “We want to secure the necessary federal assistance for local governments working to protect their citizens and infrastructure.”

Joining Haslam on the tour were Rep. Bill Sanderson, Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box, Sen. Mark Norris, Sen. Roy Herron, Dyer County Emergency Management Director James Medling and others.

A discussion session was held afterward inside the Dyersburg Municipal Airport with area mayors and their emergency management directors. Attending the meeting with Haslam were James Bassham, director of TEMA, and Maj. Gen. Max Haston.

Dyersburg Mayor John Holden told Haslam, Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of last year’s flood. He requested information on river-level predictions for the North Fork of the Forked Deer River from Bassham, who stated he would get them to Holden.

Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill stated Dyer County was in good shape as far as dealing with residents’ needs for shelters.

Dyer and Lake counties along the Mississippi River have declared local emergencies to deal with erosion and seepage along the counties’ levee systems. Additionally, Dyer, Lake and Stewart counties have begun voluntary evacuations.

“From the state standpoint, we stand ready to help in any way we can,” said Haslam. “We’ve been in direct contact with FEMA, both on the ground here and with the director of FEMA in Washington, Craig Fugate.”

After the meeting, Haslam described what he saw from the aerial tour.

“The vastness of the flooding and the water, both sides of the river, it’s just a little hard to believe until you get up there as far as you can see,” said Haslam. “You see muddy water going everywhere. It’s a little hard to. It makes you appreciate the levees, but it also makes you appreciate the power of the river that could overcome those levees as well.”

He noted the state would stand ready to assist should the time arise.

“Our main message is we obviously can’t control the rain and flooding that is already here and more coming our way, but we are prepared to respond as quickly as possible both in response and in relief after the floodwaters recede,” said Haslam.

On April 26, Haslam declared a state of emergency as a precautionary move because of the severe weather and forecast of Mississippi River flooding. Haslam was briefed April 29 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on recent storms and their effect on water levels along the Mississippi River system.

Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box said he was able to see the extent of flooding during the tour.

“I already knew we had lots of water here, but you get the full picture there, ” said Box. “The devastation is much greater and the rivers are running together and you can see how dangerous it is.”

Rep Bill Sanderson also noted the magnitude of the flooding.

“Lake County is on the brink of a disaster, but yet the damage in Lake County to me is not nearly as widespread as what we saw in Dyer County.”


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