NEWNAN, Ga. — Three weeks after a tornado ripped through Coweta County, federal help may soon be on the way.
Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both toured the damage in Newnan Saturday. The two promised to petition the Biden Administration and FEMA for federal disaster relief.
The EF4 tornado and aftermath has yet to be declared a federal disaster. Warnock said Gov. Brian Kemp sent a letter to the Biden Administration Friday, and promised Georgia’s U.S. senators would send a follow up letter and press the issue.
“Senator Ossoff and I are going to do everything we can to make sure that the federal government steps up and provides the resources needed in this county,” Warnock said. “I’m inspired by the response of neighbors right here, volunteers who have come in from far and near to support this community. Know we’re right here present with you.”
Warnock praised local leaders from the City of Newnan, Coweta County and the local school district for managing coordination response efforts after the storm, which happened March 26. The National Weather Service said the tornado impacted around 1,800 homes, businesses, churches and schools, displaced 400 families and accounted for one death.
“We’ve transitioned to more of a recovery phase now, trying to do cleanup and debris removal, trying to get things to the side of the road so we can try and get the community back together as fast as possible,” Nic Burgess, Coweta County Emergency Management coordinator said. “Debris removal trucks are moving around the clock. There are a lot of folks who lost their homes, the places they worked so hard to have. We’re going out and helping them put it back together and do everything we can to help those in need right now.”
Burgess expected that cleanup would continue months from now. Hundreds of volunteers were deployed Saturday across nearly a dozen affected areas from the Smokey Ridge neighborhood to Newnan High School to Downtown Newnan.
As far as what federal aid could look like, emergency officials said the public assistance portion, which includes local government, school system and nonprofit utilities funding, could top $28 million. It’s unclear how much individual damage, such as home and business losses, could amount to.
Aid could also come in the form of funding for crisis counseling, case management, Small Business Administration loans and help with individual families. According to Coweta County emergency management, help could come in the next two to six weeks. They attributed delays to the storm happening around the Easter holiday and GEMA having to inspect so much damage.
Coweta County Schools Superintendent Evan Horton said engineers are still assessing damage to Newnan High School, seeing what can be salvaged. Currently, Newnan High School is holding virtual classes, and the impacted elementary school is holding classes at West Georgia Technical College.
“I am 100% committed to having in-person instruction in August. I don’t know how, where or what yet," Horton said. "But I am committed to it and it will happen.”
Horton said anyone who wants to help with relief efforts should contact Coweta County Emergency Management or donate to the Coweta Community Foundation.