Flood relief changes in works after South Pittsburg disaster

Flood relief changes in works after South Pittsburg disaster

August 19th, 2013 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

Rocks, mud and water caused heavy damage to cars at a housing development in South Pittsburg, Tenn., last month. Local leaders say the state is considering ways to help future communities whose disasters don't qualify for federal aid.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - The lessons learned in the aftermath of the July 10 flash flood that struck South Pittsburg are having an impact across Marion County and potentially the state.

The city did not qualify for federal assistance after the disaster even though the damage estimates to residences, businesses, and city-owned properties are in the millions.

County Emergency Management Director Steve Lamb said a bill is in the works in the state Legislature that would create a state fund for future incidents like the one in South Pittsburg to help aid in recovery.

"There will be another rotating fund set up that provides assistance for cities that fall into these gaps [for assistance] that South Pittsburg is in," he said.

The budding idea came from conversations at the state level about the South Pittsburg flood and its aftermath, Lamb said.

Officials said one of the biggest concerns coming from the devastation is the lack of timely notification available to warn residents across the county.

Even though the National Weather Service issues flash flood warnings, Lamb said a lot of those go "by the wayside for people."

"Basically, we had no warning that night," he said.

To address that concern, the county's 911 board is working on a project that would create a mass communication system for future emergency situations.

When the program is ready, emergency officials will be able to target a single area in the county and contact residents through Facebook, Twitter and cellphones.

The communication system should be up and running by the end of the year, Lamb said.

Mayor Jane Dawkins said she was glad that some good things were happening as a result of a really bad night in South Pittsburg.

"I think there have been more blessings than bad things through this experience," she said.

"There are some things coming out of what we had down here that will hopefully make a difference in the future," Lamb said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.