By Jason A. Smith
The fate of Clayton County and 20 other counties in the state affected by last weekend's storms, is now in the hands of President George W. Bush.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue sent a letter to Bush Friday afternoon, requesting federal disaster funds to assist in areas of the state which were hit by tornadoes Sunday morning.
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said the storms caused approximately $125 million of damage to 9,000 homes statewide. In addition, he said Clayton County was one of the "hardest hit" of the 21 counties in the state, according to the number of houses affected.
"The best way for homeowners to protect themselves is to have adequate insurance," Oxedine said. "Some victims were underinsured, and now those people are financially strapped. Hopefully, they will receive some assistance on the state and federal level."
One federal official is speaking out about the damage caused by the tornadoes in Clayton, and believes it could have been avoided.
U.S. Congressman David Scott said lackluster construction may have contributed to the devastation of the homes in Ellenwood. He noted local communities should "take action" to help lessen the impact of similar events in the future.
"We need to stop constructing homes so quickly and cheaply," he explained. "I would hope we learn a lesson from this. Homes built with bricks and mortar withstood the storms. I would urge developers to make sure we're putting together ... homes in a quality manner."
Still, Scott added, Clayton was originally not part of the governor's request to the president, which listed areas in need of funds.
The initial list, composed by the governor on Sunday, placed Bibb, Carroll, Douglas, Jefferson, Johnson and Laurens counties, in a "state of emergency." Congressman Scott said he and others immediately lobbied with Perdue to revise the list to include Clayton. The request was granted the next day.
Following the revision, authorities in Clayton and several other counties submitted preliminary reports to Perdue, detailing the damage caused by the tornadoes.
"That's the first step in getting federal dollars from Washington," said Scott.
Assessment teams with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency then tallied the level of need for each area that reported damage, according to GEMA Spokesman Ken Davis.
"We [looked] mainly at uninsured losses to public infrastructures, and individual homes and businesses," said Davis.
Henry County is not expected to receive funds at the state or federal level. Scott said there was "not enough damage to merit" the county's inclusion on the governor's list.
Perdue spokesman, Marshall Guest, said the governor is optimistic that the federal funds, if granted, will help local residents rebuild what they have lost.
"Gov. Perdue hopes [the money] will give those affected by the storms last weekend, the resources to repair some of the damage throughout the state," said Guest.