The relief operation opened Thursday afternoon in a vacant structure that previously housed a branch of First Tennessee Bank. The facility is being provided at no charge by Cleveland businessman Nicholas Lillios, who owns the building.
In a related development, county leaders have confirmed damage cost from last week’s violent tornadoes has climbed to $48,666,481 and this includes just Bradley County homes. The figure does not include businesses, two elementary schools, Bradley County’s infrastructure, utilities and debris removal, according to Dan Howell, executive assistant to County Mayor D. Gary Davis.
Also, some 28 Cleveland Utilities and out-of-town line crews had reduced the number of CU customers without electric service to 295, as of 8 a.m. today. This development puts the utilities restoration effort at 99 percent complete, according CU General Manager Tom Wheeler, who projected in a Thursday report to the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities crews potentially could be finished with recovery efforts sometime this weekend.
Earlier projections had targeted May 11.
“Those still out of power are mostly located in the areas of greatest destruction from the tornadoes,” Wheeler said early today. “Crews are still out in full force to restore power to 100 percent of our system.”
Wheeler acknowledged 10 consecutive days of 16-hour shifts is taking its toll on crews. For this reason, new out-of-town crews are now being rotated in.
“Yesterday we began to roll some crews off the job and they were replaced with fresh crews from the surrounding area,” Wheeler said. “We now have crews from Sweetwater, Etowah, Tullahoma and Morristown assisting with our effort.”
Because of limited resources within the damaged electric grid, CU was unable to provide electric hookups for tonight’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life; however, David Conley of Conley Electric has confirmed his company is completing the connections.
“This is great news and I offer my sincere appreciation to David (Conley) and his men for their work,” Wheeler said. “In addition, my sincere apology goes to Relay for Life event sponsors and coordinators for the fact that we could not assist at the same level we have done in past years.”
The CU general manager added, “Relay for Life is a very important event for our community and I would urge everyone who can to attend and support tonight’s and this weekend’s effort for cancer and local disaster relief. I hope to be able to go by for a few hours and join in the effort.”
Of the downtown FEMA operations center, Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Spence described it as a “one-stop shop.”
Lillios said he is happy to be able to pitch in with the community’s recovery effort by providing FEMA with the needed space.
“We don’t have a renter for the property and this is a way we can help our community,” said Lillios. “We signed the contract today (Thursday) for 60 days’ use and will extend it if more time is needed. No one had to ask twice when the need arose for a facility for FEMA’s local headquarters.”
Before the FEMA team arrived Wednesday, Lillios had met with county officials two days earlier to offer his family’s property at the 10 Church St. location.
“Everyone has something they can offer to aid the recovery effort in Bradley County,” Lillios explained. “In our case, it was a building we own in the center of town. Due to the fact that the storm damage was so widespread across our county it made sense to use a central location that everyone could get to easily. There is even a SETHRA bus stop right outside the front door.”
Spence said the Small Business Administration and FEMA officials are in the building at present. Expected to join the effort of having all services under one roof are:
- Tennessee Department of Human Services;
- Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross;
- Salvation Army; and
- Bradley County’s Chaplain Corp.
Other relief agencies and community organizations may join, Spence said.
FEMA representatives encourage tornado victims to pre-register at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800- 621-3362.
The application process for aid takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
FEMA will ask for the following information:
- The telephone number where the applicant can be reached;
- The address where the applicant(s) lived at the time of the disaster and the address where they are now staying;
- Social Security number;
- A general description of damage to property and other losses;
- The name of applicant’s insurance company and policy number or agent, if there is property insurance; and
- Bank account routing information for those wishing FEMA to use direct deposit.
The toll-free FEMA registration numbers are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time.
“Individual assistance helps eligible applicants with rental assistance, uninsured personal property losses and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster, along with other disaster-related expenses and serious needs. Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not covered by insurance,” a FEMA statement reads.
Other news coming from Thursday’s EMA afternoon briefing included:
- FEMA Debris specialists spent the day touring affected areas of the storms. Debris must be separated into piles of metal, brush and wood. These materials are to be placed at the curb for knuckle booms to be able to retrieve for proper disposal.
- Bradley County Schools will resume classes Monday with the exception of Michigan Avenue and Blue Springs Elementary schools.
“Parents of these students will be notified where their children will attend class,” according to the report from Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel. County buses will run normal routes Monday.
- Hundreds of volunteers under American Red Cross, Bradley Baptist Association, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and Men of and Women of Action have continued to work during the relief effort.
- The Hiwassee Chapter of the American Red Cross continues to feed victims and new Red Cross Volunteer Orientation continues at the 20th Street S.E. offices. Officials are asking those who want to help to attend orientation at either 7 a.m. or 9 a.m. classes being held each day.
- Tennessee Department of Forestry is delivering and planting trees to those who lost trees during the tornadic events. Call 478- 7146. According to TDF, 500 saplings are available.
- Also, Davis said his office is continuing to compile rental listings to assist displaced families.
Visit www.bradleyco.net and click on “Available Rental Property” to view listings. Anyone with available property who wants to be listed on the site can contact the mayor’s office at 728-7146.