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Commission approves $50,000 for disaster cleanup

Washington County Commissioners approved a $50,000 appropriation from the General Fund for disaster cleanup from damage wreaked by a tornado that tore through the Gray community the night of July 27.
Mayor Dan Eldridge gave a brief update during the county commission meeting the next morning of the response to the tornado that touched down in Washington County between Interstate 26 and Highway 36.
“Our sheriff’s department and our highway department — wow,” he said. “They worked all night long, and every road was open by this morning.”
According to Eldridge, the extent of the damage was mostly downed trees. While structural damage including two lost roofs and a camper overturned onto a car occurred, there were no reported injuries.
“We held the day shift over and called the night shift in early,” Sheriff Ed Graybeal said. Working with the Highway Department and Nes Levotch of the Emergency Management Agency, lights were strung so heavy equipment could be brought in to begin clearing the roads.
Patrol cars and WCSO buses also were out checking on the residents. “What was neat to see was neighbors pouring out of their houses and pulling out their chain saws to help others,” Eldridge said.
Commissioner Ethan Flynn asked how many residents were affected. Eldridge said the assessment is still under way to determine the exact numbers, though he knows hundreds of homes had some kind of damage.
However, Eldridge said there is not nearly enough uninsured damage to qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The majority of the cleanup expense will be on us, and we need to help the community,” Eldridge told commissioners. “I would like to ask the commission to appropriate $50,000 to help us get started.”
According to Eldridge, hauling off the downed trees will be the largest part of the job, and he doubted the full amount of the appropriation would be needed. He outlined a tentative plan of action, stating a meeting with all county parties involved would be held after the commission meeting.
“We’re asking residents to get the debris to the curb,” Eldridge said. Residents are directed to separate structural debris from tree debris, and Highway Superintendent Johnny Deakins said tree pieces should be limited to 12 feet in length.
The Solid Waste Department will work with the Highway Department to pick up the debris and haul it to one central location. The county will then determine the most efficient method of disposal.
Following unanimous approval of a motion made and seconded by Flynn and Commissioner Mark Larkey respectively, the commission suspended the rules to allow consideration of action not posted on the agenda.
Commissioner Sam Phillips then made a motion to approve the $50,000 appropriation from the General Fund balance for disaster cleanup. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mike Ford and passed with unanimous approval.