Where is FEMA? - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Where is FEMA?

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A week ago today, the bright lights of Beckley went out.

More than 650,000 people lost power after last Friday's storm slammed Southern West Virginia.

"We are just now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I don't think Raleigh County has lost anybody to the heat. While it's been a tremendous inconvenience, the Sheriff's Department has been there to answer every call, stepping above the call of duty to deliver food, water, and ice," said Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner.

At this moment, the state's largest supplier of electricity AEP said about 600,000 people who lost power now have it back.

That leaves some 26,000 people still in the dark.

"There are deputies I've had to send home because they're working 24 hours straight. We've had real heroes step up and I'm extremely proud," said Tanner.

One by one, the lights are coming on, but for Tanner federal relief can't come soon enough.

"You have agencies whose entire goal, whose entire function and mission is to come out and assist the public. They've not been seen. They've not been heard from and this is totally unacceptable," said Tanner.

On Friday, 59 News reached out to FEMA headquarters in Philadelphia.

Their public affairs officer said that before FEMA can provide direct assistance to homeowners -- the Governor must first request a Major Disaster Declaration from the President that would allow for direct assistance to homeowners.

Before that can happen, though, representatives with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said FEMA workers must first complete a field assessment, which could take days.

"Not being federally declared is a big issue. This is a disaster. I would have hoped we would have gotten a major declaration the day after," said Raleigh County 911 Director Marty Agee.

Until that happens, first responders are relying on assistance from the Raleigh County Commission.

"The county commission has just been wonderful to say, Marty, whatever to takes., whatever it takes to take care of the people. We'll work with it," said Agee.