Flood Ready Tennessee is joining state and county emergency management agencies, weather authorities and other community groups this Severe Weather Week (Feb. 20-26) to raise awareness of the impact severe weather has on Tennessee’s communities. The coalition also is calling on Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly to commit to creating a statewide flood preparedness and resiliency plan to save lives and properties from floodwaters.
“Flooding is an economic drag on our rural areas and a threat to Tennesseans in large and small cities,” Dwain Land, Tennessee Renewable Energy & Economic Development Council president and former mayor of Dunlap, said in a news release. “This week we celebrate the forward-thinking initiatives our state has undertaken and focus on the opportunities ahead to collaborate and make our state more resilient to flooding.”
Floods cost Tennessee on average $243 million every year, according to a 2020 report from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. However, it is far less expensive to prevent damage than it is to recover from it, with every dollar invested in resilience resulting in up to $12 savings. From 2000 to 2020, there were 2,825 flood events in Tennessee — an average of one flood event every three days. Currently, nearly 400,000 properties across the state are at risk of severe or extreme flooding like the devastation seen in Waverly in August 2021.
Rep. Jay Reedy and Sen. Kerry Roberts introduced a bill this legislative session to establish the Tennessee Flood Resilience and Community Preparedness Task Force and create the Flood Resilience Reserve Fund. Under this bill, the task force would create a statewide flood resiliency plan to help our most vulnerable communities be better prepared for the next big flood. The creation of the fund would provide future financial assistance to state and local government entities for pre-disaster resilience programs, mitigation and infrastructure improvement projects, and voluntary relocation assistance for families with homes in flood plains.
This statewide coordination would amplify the ongoing efforts of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and many others whose work touches on the impacts of flooding from infrastructure issues to the economic health of communities.
“Regardless of whether this preparedness plan comes through legislative action or inter-agency coordination under Gov. Lee’s direction, everyone will win,” Land said. “From administrative leadership in TEMA to the rural municipal planning commission members, everyone knows floods threaten lives and livelihoods in our state. Having a plan and mechanisms in place to help our communities weather the next storm will benefit all Tennesseans.”