State Leaders Tour Tennessee Disaster Areas

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Tennessee’s top elected officials today got a close look at the recent calamities that have hit the state.

Gov. Bill Haslam, along with U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, were in Gatlinburg this morning to see the results of those wildfires, and later they took a tour of storm-damaged areas in McMinn and Polk counties.

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RONALD SCHERBARTH, DEERFIELD COMMUNITY  “The Lord’s with us. He took us through this..he kept all my neighbors through here, they got bumps and bruises…couple of them in the hospital but they’re fine.”

It was an EF-2 tornado that plowed through McMinn county on Wednesday, leaving behind millions of dollars in damages. The 135 mile per hour winds were especially devastating to the Fairview Community and Deerfield estates, where the three political leaders visited.

TEMA says eleven people were hurt in McMinn county, where there are still 423 homes without power.

GOV. BILL HASLAM, (R) TENNESSEE “State level, and federal level. uh, different resources but, uh, hopefully we can bring what we can to vbear to help, uh, in what’s a sad situation.”

The governor yesterday declared a state of emergency as part of an executive order that suspended certain state laws.

It will speed up survivors’ access to health care and other services. It lasts until January 30 and makes it unlawful for businesses and individuals to gouge prices for food, medicine, construction and other necessities.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency confirmed that the severe weather affected eight counties. Altogether there were five confirmed tornadoes on the group, including storms in Marion and Polk counties–in addition to McMinn.

The three leaders assured residents of support from the state and federal governments.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE  “For right now, I think its neighbors helping neighbors in cleaning up the mess and making sure people are taken care of and then in the next few days we’ll be able to evaluate what aid might be available.”

The three also visited Polk county in the afternoon where the strongest tornado hit. The EF-3 storm killed two people in the Ocoee community.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R) TENNESSEE  “What we’ve seen, as we see all across the state, is..is great leadership and great Tennesseans volunteering. We’ve heard of people losing their homes and yet someone else creating a place for them immediately.”

The final dollar figure on storm damage in Tennessee has not been determined.