FEMA assesses storm damage

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First at Five, March 18, 2008

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga.---Federal and state agencies took a tour of the storm damage in Jefferson County, but that doesn't mean federal aid is coming quite yet.

"I stepped out of the house, I saw the twister coming," said Matthews Fire Chief Barrow Walden. He says the damage in Jefferson County has been devastating.

"I'm just hoping we can get some relief, we can get some help. This has been overwhelming to our community," he said.

That's why he's taking people from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, around his town and showing them how bad the storms hurt the county. He's hoping to get monetary help from them.

"I'm trying to get them to see everything," he said.

He's pointing out the worst parts first, and is hoping they'll be able to help.

"Every disaster is the worst disaster for the people who've gone through it. And that's one of the things we want to be responsive to is how hard these people have been hit," said John Shea, a spokesperson for FEMA.

He says right now FEMA is gathering information about how badly the area was hit, but they're not handing out assistance just yet.

"There's community. There are state resources. And there will be federal resources if there's a presidential declaration," he says.

The state will use the information to decide how much to assist. Then state officials will decide if they need to ask FEMA for help. President Bush would then have to declare an emergency for the area to get federal assistance.

Walden says whether from state or federal government, they need help.

"The main ones that didn't have the insurance, seems like the storm was harder on them," Walden.

He says the area wasn't prepared for the situation, but they will be if there's a next time. Now he's just hoping they have enough evidence to get some assistance.

"It's a disaster area down here and we just need all the help we can get," Walden said.

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