Gov. Bill Lee visited Hardin County Friday afternoon to report on efforts at the higher levels of state government to address flooding impacts.
He stopped at a heavily flooded spot on the west side of the Harrison-McGarrity-Carpenter bridge at Savannah to view the damage for himself.
“You all are the ones affected and you all are the ones that are doing the hard work — but we want to be a support, make sure we’re reporting to you, and make sure the lines of communication are open,” Lee said to a packed room of officials at the Savannah-Hardin County Airport.
Saying the flooding across Tennessee began on Feb. 6 and that “this will still last for some time,” Lee said 83 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have experienced negative impacts, 232 identified road closures have been forced by flooding, and the state has suffered the loss of lives.
The group included local officials from Hardin and surrounding counties, and representatives from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee National Guard and others.
TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan told the gathered officials the statewide damage assessment to public works alone has been estimated so far at above $50 million for infrastructure and statewide response expenses. TDOT Deputy Commissioner Paul Degges said the department has identified about $70 million in damage to state highways.
None of that cost includes the loss to private homes, farms and other property.
Stopping at RV Road just west of the bridge on U.S. 64 spanning the Tennessee River, Lee said he was awestruck at the conditions.
Hardin County Fire Chief and EMA Director Melvin Martin pointed out to Lee where the flood waters crested, and the partially flooded structures that were covered just days ago.
(Look for full coverage of the governor’s visit in next week’s print edition.)
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