TROUP COUNTY, Ga. - Troup County officials say FEMA has denied Georgia's request for extra funding to support the county's recovery from storms and tornado that left the area damaged earlier this year.
"Obviously we’re extremely disappointed that the declaration didn’t go through," Troup County EMA Director Zac Steele said.
In a statement, the spokesperson for the Troup County Government says FEMA has decided not to issue a major disaster declaration for the severe weather that affected the area from March 25 to 27.
"FEMA determined that the damage from these events did not meet the threshold to go beyond the capabilities of the state, local governments, and voluntary agencies. Therefore, supplemental federal assistance will not be provided," the spokesperson wrote.
"FEMA requires a threshold of $19 million in damage statewide and we fell short of that," Steele explained.
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Steele told FOX 5 that request submitted by GEMA on behalf of about a dozen counties in the state including Troupe, would have helped cover damage, debris removal and overtime pay for first responders.
"It’s a lengthy recovery process…debris removal and disposal of that debris probably takes somewhere close to a year, he said."
Steele said the application process for assistance was also a lengthy one. While they aren’t happy with FEMA’s decision, he said it won’t slow down their recovery efforts at all. They’ll get to work on repairs needed and are looking into other potential sources of funding.
"We’ll find local options, community grants whatever is out there to be able to serve our citizens…that’s exactly what we’re gonna do," he said.
Steele said the county’s focus remains two-fold—helping residents and preparing for the next one.
"Our citizens are paramount for us and it’s our job to make sure we do anything possible to serve them, we’re going to continue to do that," he said.
A day after a powerful tornado tore through the West Point community, Troup County officials continue cleanup efforts on March 27, 2023. (FOX 5)
Between 25 and 30 homes were destroyed by the severe storm and at least 100 more were damaged. Five people in Georgia suffered minor injuries - a positive outcome compared to the 25 lives lost in Mississippi and one in Alabama.
"We're just so thankful that there was no loss of life," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said while surveying the storm damage. "We're lucky." Kemp issued a state of emergency on Sunday, just hours after the storms tore through the state.
In total, more than 12 inches fell over the weekend as the storms passed through west Georgia.
The March 26th twister was the third to hit Troup County this year. Weather officials have now determined it was a 3 on the EF scale, which means that winds got to be above 136 miles per hour.
"When we thought we were getting caught up from January, we get hit again, so, it’s just a double whammy if you will," said Troup County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Stewart Smith.
Recovery efforts were hampered by Monday's storms which caused heavy flooding.
"Five roads are completely closed right now. We have a couple that are washed away, so the major concern is getting through this phase, and this flooding phase which is impacting a lot of people as well," Smith said at the time.
Officials say despite using "all available resources," FEMA denied the state and the county's emergency management agencies' request for more resources.
The county now says they will continue to explore every avenue they can to get all the resources that are available for the recovery.
FOX 5 reached out to FEMA to get more insight on what goes into the decision about disaster declarations. We’re still waiting to hear back.
The city of Newnan was also denied additional federal aid when an EF-4 tornado struck in March 2021.