Winter storm damage in Cumberland County still piling up

Front lawns are littered with tree limbs, left over from a winter storm two months ago.

CROSSVILLE (WATE) – Winter storm damage has still not been touched in Cumberland County, but now federal help is on the way. A FEMA grant will help pay for the cleanup in one of the hardest hit areas of the state.

Thousands were without power and millions of dollars in damage was caused statewide by sleet, snow and frigid temperatures in February.

Front lawns are littered with tree limbs, left over from a winter storm two months ago.

“I have all these beautiful old trees and they just broke off like matches,” said homeowner Teddie Clark.

Cleanup is overwhelming throughout the county. It was an expensive emergency for Cumberland County. FEMA visited last month and decided to help.

“Certainly any help that we can get from the government to help clean this would be great,” said Clark.vlcsnap-2015-04-06-19h25m24s188

Paperwork is being drafted weeks later for a contract crew to remove all the brush and debris, as well as a crew to oversee cleanup. It’s an enormous job, but it won’t be left solely up to the county highway department.

“We couldn’t. There’s no way. And reason why I say that, coming out of winter you have 10 employees on the county road department to cover 680 square miles and 1,100 miles of road. It’s just a lot to ask,” said Emergency Management Director Keith Garrison.

The grant will also assist Volunteer Energy Cooperative for repairs.

Cumberland County leaders say if this grant had not been approved, one option would have been dipping into the county’s fund balance for recovery work.

“I think it’ll be years getting over the loss of trees,” added Garrison.

For now, it’s just waiting. Cleanup is expected to start in the coming months. All homeowners have to do is put piles of branches and debris close to the road.

“I’m excited about spring. This has been the longest winter,” said Clark.

Individual homeowners, who may have damage, are not receiving federal grant money because Cumberland County did not meet the required percentage of uninsured and under-insured homes.

Cumberland County Emergency Management says roughly $6 million worth of damage happened to VEC’s power grid. VEC estimates damage from winter storms cost upwards of $10 million.

The electric company says the FEMA grant will help so that customers utility bills will not increase. About 90 percent of the repair work is complete. VEC is replacing the last few power poles.

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