President Obama declared disasters Tuesday in Nashville and three Tennessee counties, clearing the way for federal assistance to flood victims.
The president's action applies to Davidson, Cheatham, Hickman and Williamson counties, but officials said damage surveys have been scheduled and more counties may be designated after the assessments.
After surveying the damage by helicopter Monday, Gov. Phil Bredesen made the official request for disaster designation for 52 Tennessee counties and personally handed the documents to Federal Emergency Management Administration Craig Fugate.
“Having been to a lot of disasters doesn’t take the sting out of seeing another community that’s suffered losses both in life and homes and property,” Fugate said. “We’re here to support. We’re part of the team. We’ll be working expeditiously on your request.”
Included in the assistance is cash and low-cost loans to homeowners to cover uninsured property losses and repair damages and for cities and counties to remove debris and rebuild infrastructure.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper has called the weekend flood "a multibillion-dollar disaster."
FEMA said residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance Wednesday by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
Cooper's office also issued guidelines to apply for aid. Read them here (PDF).
Davidson death toll drops
Late Monday, Metro’s Office of Emergency Management reported that 10 people in Davidson County had died as a result of severe weather. But on Tuesday, they reduced that number to nine.
Officials said the man found dead on Runaway Drive is thought to have died of natural causes rather than severe weather.
Other weather-related fatalities included Billy F. Rutledge, 70, and his wife, Mary Rutledge, 65, of Graybar Lane. They were reportedly driving on Harding Road on their way to church when they were swept away.
An elderly woman found in her River Plantation home has been identified as Mary Jane McCormack, 86.
Schools ask state for help
Administrators at Metro Nashville Public Schools are prepared to ask for an exemption from the state that would allow the district to bypass school cancellations caused by the weekend of flooding.
The district used up all their snow days during a particularly harsh winter.
Schools will be closed for a third straight day on Wednesday.
Road and bridge inspections underway
Tennessee Department of Transportation personnel are deployed across Middle Tennessee, assessing what the retreating waters have revealed about the condition of state roads. Bridge inspection crews have been brought in from East Tennessee to examine area bridges. By Wednesday, contract crews will begin repairing flood damage to state roads.
In Williamson County, Highway 96 near I-65 is now open. For a map of flooded state roads, visit http://ww2.tdot.state.tn.us/tsw/smartmap.htm?city=Nashville.
For information on Metro road closures, visit http://maps.nashville.gov/roadclosures.