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Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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The Emergency Operations Center (EOC)

EMA Director/Fire Chief Glenn Polk and Fire Chief John Hamilton show where the tornado came through Spalding County.

Regina Abbott and Norma Amaro from the Spalding County Collaborative Authority.

The Disaster Recovery Center

Directions to SBA and FEMA in the Recovery Center

Help is available in the SBA Disaster Assistance Room

Help is available in the SBA Disaster Assistance Room

Help is available in the SBA Disaster Assistance Room

Greg Dal Porto volunteering his time to answer the phone at the Call Center.

Help is available with DFCS.

Help is available in the FEMA Disaster Assistance Room

Help is available in the FEMA Disaster Assistance Room

I like to see security in public places. And Athena slowed down
long enough for me to get a picture.

Please note.

Disaster Assistance Center

Cleaning up the effects of storm.

Cleaning up the effects of storm.
Update on the Spalding County Tornado Clean Up
Pike County Is Declared to Be Part of the Disaster Declaration
By Editor Becky Watts

GRIFFIN - Spalding County is still recovering from the storm. Pike County Times made a visit to Spalding County on Friday, February 10, 2023 in order to follow up on the storm recovery effort.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Disaster Recovery Center to see how things are going one month after the tornadoes came through Spalding County and six other surrounding counties including north Pike County.

PLEASE NOTE: Pike County has recently been declared as a part of the disaster declaration.

Click here to see how the tornados impacted Pike County.

Click here to see how far Spalding County has come in just a month’s time. Plans are progressing to help storm victims access needed resources now and in the future with a continuing call for volunteers to help with cleaning up storm damage.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC)

EMA Director/Fire Chief Glenn Polk and Fire Rescue Fire Chief John Hamilton took time between meetings to give an overall view of what is going on in Spalding County. Polk and Hamilton are pictured in front of one of the maps tracking the damage from the tornadoes that struck parts of Spalding County.

First, volunteers are still needed to help with the clean up effort. Contact the Call Center at 678-453-4508 to find out where you can help. (More on this in the FEMA section when Pike County Times talks to Leah Wooddall.)

The Distribution Center is trying to close out tomorrow/Saturday February 11. “This has been a great benefit for the community,” Polk said.

If you have a ministry that can help distribute items to those affected by the storms, please go by the Distribution Center located at 220 East Solomon Street between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and continue getting help to storm victims in the community.

Polk advised that everyone who could get power has that availability now, but there are some who need help connecting to the electrical system because of storm related damage to the service line. (For example, the electrical post on the side of the home must be fixed by the homeowner before the electrical company can hook a home back into the power grid.) There is a team that will be helping with electrical issues to try to get these citizens with electricity in their homes again.

“We are still doing calls for service,” Polk said. “We are meeting people where they are and helping with their needs.”

The first priority in the next 6 to 12 months is helping connect people to resources in the community. There are more than 140 severely damaged or destroyed rental properties in the city which means that there are people in hotels and other places around the community who need these resources in order to remain in the community. “We want to recover together,” Hamilton said. “This is about all of us in this together.”

“Another year past that, we are trying to get people back to a new normal,” Hamilton said.

Spalding County is working with federal and state as well as non-profit groups like the Spalding County Collaborative Authority to connect storm victims with needed resources.

The Spalding County Collaborative Authority is a lead agency with long-term recovery. “They will help us get through the next couple of years,” Hamilton said. Regina Abbott and Norma Amaro from the Spalding County Collaborative Authority are pictured above.

Click here to find out more about this organization or to make donations to the Griffin-Spalding Tornado Relief Fund 2023 through the QR code.

The Disaster Recovery Center - 885 Memorial Drive, Griffin

The FEMA-State Disaster Recovery Center is located at 885 Memorial Drive in Griffin in the Spalding County Senior Center. This is a one stop shop for state and federal disaster recovery for tornado victims.

Pike County Times met Leah Wooddall at the Volunteer Center right after the disaster occurred in Spalding County. She was part of the Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) response at the Senior Center that was helping direct volunteers to locations where they could use chainsaws, pull limbs, and use large equipment to help clear affected properties around the county.

Call Center Volunteers Needed - 885 Memorial Drive, Griffin

Volunteers are still needed at the Call Center. You can call 678-453-4508 to get on this list and help answer phone calls. There is a need for one person per 4 hour shift. Shifts are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Call Center is directing volunteers on specific locations to physically help with the recovery effort as well as directing storm victims to recovery resources.

Greg Dal Porto is pictured above at the Call Center.

Chainsaws, Limb Pullers, and Heavy Equipment Volunteers Needed - Call 678-453-4508

“We still need chainsaw and heavy equipment teams,” Wooddall said. “There are 300 open cases.”

The drive through is no longer operational, but a call to 678-453-4508 will hook volunteers up with a homeowner who needs help. If you are a part of a group that can cut limbs and pull branches into a pile or have large equipment that can help clear an area, please contact the 678-453-4508.

If you would like to help with cleanup through a group like Samaritan's Purse, they have extended their time in Griffin through at least the end of the month. Click here Click here for more information on how to sign up.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) – Business Recovery Center

One of five Georgia SBA Business Recovery Centers is in Room 109 at the Spalding Senior Center at 855 Memorial Drive in Griffin. Trained and experienced customer service representatives are available 6 days a week to walk business owners—as well as homeowners and renters—though the disaster loan application process.

“More than $2 million in disaster loans have been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for businesses and residents with losses resulting from the severe storms, straight-line winds and tornadoes that occurred Jan. 12. As of February 10, the SBA has approved 70 disaster loans for a total of $2,179,200 for the disaster-related damage and economic injury that occurred that day.

The disaster declaration includes Butts, Henry, Jasper, Meriwether, Newton, Spalding and Troup counties in Georgia, which are eligible for both Physical Damage and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA. PLEASE NOTE: Pike County has recently been declared as a part of the disaster declaration.

Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in the following adjacent counties are eligible to apply only for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs): Clayton, Coweta, DeKalb, Fayette, Harris, Heard, Jones, Lamar, Monroe, Morgan, Pike, Putnam, Rockdale, Talbot, Upson, and Walton in Georgia.”

Click here to read, “U.S. Small Business Administration Fact Sheet – Disaster Loans.”

Click here to read, “U.S. Small Business Administration to Offer Disaster Loans with No Interest and No Payments for First Year.”

Jim Accurso and his Public Affairs Specialist colleagues are encouraging those referred by FEMA to come by one of the five-area Business Recovery Centers. “We would like to talk to them in person to see if they’re eligible for a low-interest, low-term disaster loan. We’d like to see if we can help them, as we know they’ve been through a lot,” Accurso said.

He also gave a couple of important items of note. First, you don’t have to wait for an insurance settlement to apply, and there is no fee to do so. Second, if a loan is awarded, payment is deferred and interest-free for 12 months. “There’s also no obligation to take an SBA disaster loan if it’s awarded,” he said, adding that additional funds may be available for mitigation measures “that can lessen the chances of similar physical damages happening in a future storm.”

The deadline to apply for physical damage is March 17, 2023. The deadline to apply for economic injury is October 16, 2023.

“If you’ve been referred by FEMA, please come in even though you think you may not qualify,” Accurso said. “By coming in to register, you’re keeping the process going, which may result in eligibility for FEMA’s other needs assistance.”

Locations and hours for the area Business Recovery Centers:

•Spalding County at the Spalding Senior Center in Griffin
Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Additional Business Recovery Centers are located at:

•Henry County at the Locust Grove Public Library in Locust Grove
Monday and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

•Troup County at the William Griggs Recreation Center in LaGrange
Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

•Newton County at the FA-FCCLA Retreat Center in Covington
Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

•Jasper County at the New Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Mansfield
Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (5:30 p.m. Wednesday’s)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - Disaster Recovery Center

FEMA has many trained and experienced customer service representatives who are available 6 days a week to help homeowners and renters who have been impacted by the January 12, 2023 storms in Spalding County at the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). PLEASE NOTE: Pike County has recently been declared as a part of the disaster declaration. [Note from the Editor: The FEMA DRC will be open on Sunday, February 12 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours change to 6 days a week effective on Monday, February 13, 2023.]

These specialists can explain assistance programs that are available to storm victims and help complete and check the status of federal assistance applications for damages to personal property and vehicles. This can include HVAC and sewer systems as well as helping provide basic necessities.

“We are here to guide you,” said Mohammad, Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) Manager. “We will tell you what to do to get qualified.” Even for small things, please come by.

There are some items that are needed when asking for assistance. When placing an application for vehicle assistance, it is necessary to bring a valid registration and proof of at least liability insurance. A receipt or estimate for repair from a mechanic is also needed.

When placing an application for property assistance, the property owner places the application, and FEMA sends an inspector to go to the property to provide a cost estimate for fixing the damage.

Click here to read, "Understanding FEMA Decisions and Your Appeals Options.”

Renters can also apply for damages to appliances and other personal property such as furniture and clothing as well as for help with temporary housing. Click here to read “Renters and Students with Tornado Damage Can Apply for FEMA Assistance.”

According to the website, FEMA assistance is not the same as insurance. “FEMA assistance only provides funds for basic work to make a home habitable, including items such as toilets, a roof, critical utilities, windows and doors.”

The website also states that FEMA provides financial assistance to “eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster who have uninsured or underinsured disaster-related expenses. FEMA cannot provide assistance for losses covered by insurance. If your insurance does not cover all your losses, or is delayed, you may be eligible for assistance for your unmet needs.” By law, FEMA cannot duplicate payments that have been provided by insurance or assistance that has been provided from other sources.

Kat, FEMA Crew Lead, added that people from Pike County can come in even though Pike County has not been declared at this time. If everyone with a damaged home comes in, it could help with a disaster declaration.

She also said that if things change and Pike County is declared a disaster, those who have applied would already be in the system. [Note from the Editor on 2.13.23: Pike County has been officially declared to be a part of the disaster declaration. See added section below.

Mohammad and Kat both recommended filling out the application at the center in order to have questions answered and avoid issues with a possible denial. It’s better to come in and sit down with a specialist who can answer questions and explain the process. “We can walk you through it,” Kat said.

Mohammad also said that applicants who receive a denial should bring their denial letter to sit down with a specialist at the center to figure out what the issues are and work through them.

“We are here to be an advocate for survivors,” said Kat.

DisasterAssistance.gov is a great information source as well. [Note from the Editor: The DisasterAssistance.gov website was added on 2.13.23.]

The registration period ends on March 20, 2023.

Pike and Spalding County storm survivors can speak with FEMA specialists at the Spalding County Senior Center located at 855 Memorial Drive in Griffin GA 30223. The hours of operation are Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) Announces Disaster Assistance Available for Pike

ATLANTA - The Major Disaster Declaration for the January 12 severe storms, straight-line winds and tornadoes has been amended. Pike County residents are now able to apply for Individual Assistance. Individual Assistance may include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the hurricane.

Public Assistance is available to state and local government entities and qualified not-for-profit organizations. It will provide financial aid for debris removal and emergency work.

Individuals can apply for assistance in any of the following ways:
• Online at DisasterAssistance.gov
• Calling 1-800-621-3362
• People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585.

For more information on the Major Disaster Declaration or Public Assistance, please email PublicAssistance@gema.ga.gov, and for Individual Assistance, email IndividualAssistance@gema.ga.gov.

[Note from the Editor: "GEMA Announces Disaster Assistance Available for Pike" section added on February 13, 2023.]


There are so many people and organizations who are working together to help victims of the storm! It is amazing to see how the different pieces of the puzzle are working together to

Storm victims, You are loved, and the community WILL be stronger than it was before the storm as y'all walk through the healing process.

Organizations, city and county entities, and individual volunteers, Y'all are amazing. Thank you!

And thank you to everyone who talked to me and allowed me to take your pictures in order to document the work after the storm!

Thank you to First Bank of Pike for sponsoring Pike County Times’ Breaking News Alerts! First Bank of Pike has been serving customers in Pike County and the surrounding area since 1901 and offers Personal and Business banking with a personal touch. Services include checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, and IRA’s. Mobile Banking and Bill Payment services are also available! Click here for more. Please let First Bank of Pike know that you appreciate their sponsorship of Breaking News Alerts on Pike County's only FREE online newspaper!


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