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Rep Blackburn on Tennessee Floods


Location: Washington, DC

I want to thank Senator Alexander for calling this important hearing. As my colleagues and I know, Washington spends too much time playing Monday Morning quarterback. Too often our hearings are focused on what went wrong with the federal response. Too many times we try to learn lessons born of failure, incompetence, or poor coordination.

Tennessee's experience this spring offers a different kind of lesson learned. Tennessee's lesson to Congress is about what went right and how others can learn in the future.

Mr. Chairman, the picture behind me is of a washed out road in my district, near Kingston Springs, Tennessee. It is the result of a thousand year flood event. The storms this May were stronger and the waters higher and faster than anyone could have reasonably predicted. Their like will probably and hopefully not be seen again in our lifetime.

The road you see in this picture was washed yards from its original bed. It lies atop foundations that used to be homes - homes that were found miles down river.

Neighbors and local first responders acted quickly, pulling people from flood waters, cars, and the ruin of their homes. Tennesseans acted heroically during the flood and in the weeks and months following it. They deserve all the praise that this Congress can bestow on them.

For the first time in my memory, citizens trying to help were aided- not hindered- by state and federal authorities who were working hard, working transparently, working with single purpose, and efficiently and effectively coordinating with each other. Governor Bredesen and his team distinguished themselves and likewise deserve our praise.

Much of our focus today will be on devastation and loss in metro Nashville, much will also focus on flood damage in Clarksville. Senator Alexander, you and I walked those streets together and we know it is entirely appropriate.

Mr. Chairman, there are fifteen counties in the 7th Congressional District. I have been to every one of them to make sure that each county and local mayor has what he or she needs. Every one of them has been declared a disaster area, which is a third of the 46 Tennessee counties declared for individual assistance. In my 15 counties, as of this week, 51,002 people have registered for individual assistance and over $220 million has been awarded to my constituents

Allow me to highlight Cheatham County with a population of roughly 35,000. It ranks 2nd in Tennessee behind Davidson county to receive maxed out individual assistance from FEMA. To date, Cheatham County has reported a loss of approximately $25 million in residential damages along. 182 houses were damaged below 50 percent and hundreds more can not be repaired with over 50 percent damage. These are HUGE numbers in a rural area with limited resources, and sadly, these numbers are climbing everyday.

We cannot loose sight of the fact that too many roadbeds in our rural counties look like this one, and will for some time. We cannot let the proximity of our own homes in Nashville or Memphis allow us to loose sight of the compelling recovery needs in Cheatham County, Clarksville, or Hickman County. The road back for these communities is likely to be much longer.

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