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Locals asked to support tornado survivors

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

State officials are inviting willing-and-able bodies, to demonstrate their support of those across Georgia, and in the Southern Crescent, who were hard hit by the severe storms of April 27 and 28.

"When the severe weather moves through, it's breaking news. But the story doesn't end when the sun comes out. That's when the work begins," said Lisa Janak, public information officer for Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA).

Janak said several state groups have partnered in search of volunteers to participate in clean-up efforts that are still underway in 27 affected Georgia counties -- 25 of which were named under the Federal Disaster Declaration.

GEMA's daily county reports indicate that last week's severe storms spun off deadly tornadoes that killed 15 Georgians, injured 143, and damaged, or destroyed, more than 2,000 homes across the northern and central regions of the state.

In an effort to ease the challenges facing those impacted by the storms and tornadoes, Janak said, GEMA is partnering with Americorps Georgia, and the Georgia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster -- a statewide consortium of agencies that assist in disaster-response and-relief efforts.

The GEMA spokeswoman said agencies are inviting members of surrounding counties to turnout Saturday for a "Georgia Volunteer Saturday" cleanup effort. The endeavor will begin Saturday morning, at 8 a.m., and will continue "until the job is done."

Volunteers are being asked to check in at any of the six "volunteer coordination centers." Nearby centers include: Lamar County, at 100 Commerce Place in Barnesville; Meriwether County, at 120 West Perry St., in Manchester, Ga.; the Spalding County Voters Registration Office, at 819 Memorial Drive, in Griffin.

Janak said there will be a 9 a.m., start time at the Griffin location, and that volunteers should come prepared to remove debris, rake yards, chainsaw trees, and assist with general clean-up work.

GEMA also is partnering with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to help those displaced by the recent tornadoes find rental housing. Displaced survivors are urged to visit the DCA's Georgia Housing Search web site, www.GeorgiaHousingSearch.org., which allows users to find available rentals by location, price range, and descriptions.

Georgia property owners, who have an apartment or house for rent, may also list their properties on the site at no cost, she added. They should make sure their information includes the city, county or ZIP code, price range for rent, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

"In the aftermath of the recent tornadoes, Georgians can use this valuable tool to rebuild their lives and find temporary housing," said GEMA Director Charley English.

Emergency management officials also noted that storm survivors in disaster-stricken counties may be eligible for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "We ask that people register with FEMA as soon as possible," said Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech.

Szczech said FEMA offers several registration options online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or by phone at 800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with hearing or speech impairment can use TTY 800-462-7585.

Operators speak many languages, and the lines are open 7 a.m., to 10 p.m. Connectivity is also available through web-enabled mobile devices or smart phones, at "m.fema.gov."

To be eligible for FEMA assistance as a result of the April 27-28 storms and tornadoes, applicants must have disaster-related damages not covered by insurance. Residents affected by the disaster should contact their insurance providers before registering with FEMA.