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Forsyth County eligible for disaster relief in winter storm cleanup

FORSYTH COUNTY — During the winter storm in February, ice and downed trees nearly brought Forsyth to a standstill. But the county is in line to get reimbursed for some of the costs associated with the arctic blast.

Forsyth is among the 15 counties eligible for disaster relief after President Barrack Obama signed a federal declaration for Georgia due to the storm.

“The primary purpose of us receiving this federal disaster declaration is to reimburse the county for expenses that we incurred as part of the ice storm back in February,” said Chris Grimes, deputy director of the local emergency management agency.

According to Grimes, the bulk of the cost has been the ongoing tree removal, for which the agency would also be seeking reimbursement for tools.

“We are still to this day performing debris removal, primarily limbs along the county roadways,” he said. “It will also be supplies used as a response that ice storm such as chainsaws [and] maintenance that had to be performed during the storm.”

In the first 36 hours after the storm Feb. 16, local agencies responded to 814 calls. The sheriff’s office fielded 695 of those, with about 400 involving trees falling across roads. About 100 were related to downed power lines.

Thousands of residents felt the impact much longer, as power service was disrupted for days. At the height of the storm, about 38,000 were without service.

The county last received FEMA funding in 2004, after Hurricane Ivan, and is eligible to receive up to 75 percent reimbursement for eligible expenses.

“The next step is we will have a meeting with FEMA, after which they will assign us a project manager and then we will begin the process of submitting documents and records to FEMA for their review,” Grimes said.

Grimes said the city of Cumming and even the Forsyth County school system were eligible to file for reimbursement, but that the Emergency Management Agency would be the primary point of contact for local governments.

Representatives with Cumming said the city did not have enough substantial damage to warrant applying for the reimbursement.