Herron: Water in places I’ve never seen it before
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 9:06 pm
“There’s water where I’ve never seen water before,” state Sen. Roy Herron said about weekend flooding in Lake County.
“The river is higher than I’ve ever seen it and some are saying it’s the highest it’s been since the historic floods of ’37,” he told The Messenger today.
Herron toured the region Sunday afternoon to see first-hand the flooding impact. In a telephone interview early today, he tried to describe what he’d seen Sunday.
“I think where we are … if the rains will stop and the levees will hold, we may have seen the worst of the damage,” he said. “We are just one break away from an enormous disaster, though, and if the levee breaks it will be a disaster of absolutely tragic proportions.”
He said there were numerous places along the Lake County levee where water was near the top.
One of the main concerns in Lake County has been the safety of the sewer system. The state senator from Dresden said water reached within a foot of flooding the electrical system and shutting it down. That sewer system serves all of Lake County and parts of western Obion County.
“The water is high on both sides of the levee,” Herron said.
Floodwaters have nowhere to drain because of the high water levels of the Mississippi River and flooding along the Lake County levees.
“It (the flooding) does so much damage it effectively destroys buildings … some can be repaired, but most are ruined,” Herron said.
As he made his way through Lake County to Samburg on Sunday, he said he saw work crews from the Lake County prisons working on sandbagging.
“I saw them and I thanked them,” he said. “I thanked the prisoners. I thanked the guards. I thanked everybody I saw yesterday.”
He said Sunday’s tour of the area was his fourth visit to the region to assess flood damage.
He was part of a helicopter tour of the region with Gov. Bill Haslam and other officials early last week. He said he is grateful for the governor’s quick response to issuing a disaster declaration for Lake and Obion counties.
The governor has dispatched a formal request to President Obama for 15 counties in Tennessee to be declared federal disaster areas. The governor’s request has the full support of Tennessee’s congressional delegation.
“On behalf of the State of Tennessee, we urge you to approve Governor Bill Haslam’s request to declare a major disaster due to severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes, flash flooding and river flooding that began on April 19, 2011,” a letter signed by Tennessee’s congressional delegation states in part.
Haslam has specifically requested public assistance under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and has requested additional assistance under the federal Individuals and Households Programs, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program, Crisis Counseling Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Disaster Legal Services and Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program.
In a related development, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has activated two of its district strike teams to help flood victims in West Tennessee.
Strike teams from Jackson and Memphis have reported to the National Guard Armory just east of Tiptonville and are working 12-hour shifts patrolling an area that includes parts of Lake and Dyer counties and Hornbeak in Obion County. The strike teams are specially trained units that are able to respond to different types of crisis situations.
“Several counties in West Tennessee are in states of emergency and the Tennessee Highway Patrol is ready to support our fellow Tennesseans during this crisis,” state Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons said. “As the Mississippi and its tributaries continue to rise we have state troopers on the ground to help support local law enforcement and emergency management officials in any way they can.”
Published in The Messenger 5.9.11