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Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

FEMA meeting needy southwest Ga. residents after Hurricane Michael

$700 million in agricultural and residential damage claims already filed 

As southwest Georgians try to rebuild homes and businesses battered by Hurricane Michael, FEMA officials have opened centers across the area for people to apply for federal assistance.

The FEMA centers are located around the 20-county region that President Donald Trump declared “major disaster areas” after the storm barreled into the state on Oct. 11 as a Category 3 storm.

The 18 centers, which are expected to shift locations throughout the month to ensure the whole area is served, give survivors a chance to meet with FEMA workers. The agency can answer questions about temporary housing, home repairs, replacing damaged property and other needs. FEMA may cover some medical, dental or transportation costs not covered by insurance or other programs.

The centers are intended for the uninsured and under-insured. FEMA asks those with adequate insurance to file claims with their providers.

Many already have. The state insurance commissioner, Ralph Hudgens, said Wednesday his office had already counted 68,000 residential and agricultural insurance claims related to the storm, totaling nearly $700 million. “My department continues to have conversations with insurers to ensure a smooth claims process for the victims of Hurricane Michael,” Hudgens told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The totals are likely to rise.

10/11/2018 -- Albany, Georgia -- A communications tower that allows communication with the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Department of Natural resources is tarnished in Albany, Thursday, October 11, 2018. The winds from Hurricane Michael destroyed buildings and trees, along with other structures. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has estimated state farmers lost some $3 billion because of destroyed cotton, pecans and vegetables crops, as well as damage to equipment and structures.

Residents took hard hits, too.

In Bainbridge, for instance, many residents were displaced because trees fell on their homes, or the winds, which were clocked around 115 mph in some parts of Georgia, tore off roofs and broke windows. At Potter Street Elementary, students have been forced into temporary trailers because of damage to the school, according to the city’s communications director Crystal Hines.

She estimated about 95 percent of the structures in the city were damaged in one way or another.

“There’s very few neighborhoods you can ride through where there aren’t tarps on the roofs,” Hines told the AJC. “Lots of roofs completely ripped off. Some of the older homes especially.”

She said FEMA has been on the ground in Bainbridge, the seat of Decatur County, since right after the storm and many residents have already requested federal aid.

To find the closet FEMA center, visit the agency’s website. People can also request assistance by phone at 1-800-621-3362 or online at disasterassistance.gov.

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