Escambia County officials are pleading with the public to send in photos of Hurricane Sally damage to aid in getting individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Escambia County Commission Chairman Steven Barry told the News Journal on Wednesday that the county was asking for photos of damage from Sally, along with the address of where the damage occurred and stories of about 200 words less.
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Barry said the information will help the justify federal aid for individuals from FEMA.
"This information becomes an integral part of our FEMA application as it relates to the individual assistance component, which is what will put money directly in the citizens' hands to help with the restoration of their way of life," Barry said.
Photos and stories can be sent via email to HurricaneSally@myescambia.com.
Hurricane Sally made landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in the early hours of Sept. 16. Because of the location of the hurricane, Pensacola and southwestern Escambia County faced some of the heaviest rain and worst winds and storm surge Sally had to offer.
President Donald Trump signed off on declaring the three Alabama counties impacted by Sally a major disaster, unlocking federal aid for individuals who suffered damage to their property in the storm. However, no such declaration for the Florida counties hit by Sally had been issued as of Wednesday evening.
Still, during a press conference Wednesday, Escambia County officials were confident a disaster declaration would be issued that would unlock individual assistance. The question was what level of assistance would be granted.
Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley sounded less urgent about individual stories during a press conference Wednesday afternoon but said federal officials had recommended the county gather individuals' photos and stories.
"What we're trying to do is we're trying to just demonstrate all of the help that we need," Gilley said. "That's what we're doing. So we're going to continue to share those photos with FEMA and FDEM (Florida Division of Emergency Management)."
Gilley said she knows other communities have not asked for the public to submit photos of storm damage, but Escambia County wants to continue demonstrating that it needs help.
"What we want to do is we want to continue to impress that we have the need," Gilley said. "So that's the main reason for us doing this. I understand that other communities might not be doing it, but I don't want to leave any stone unturned. Everybody that has come through this building has told us they need photos, they need photos, they need photos, and so we're continuing to provide those photos."
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday afternoon that he was activating the state's small business emergency loan program to provide short-term, interest-free loans to business that were hurt by Hurricane Sally.
"The intense wind, rain and flooding from Hurricane Sally has led to extensive damage in Northwest Florida," DeSantis said in a press release. "We are working diligently to help these communities recover and I encourage affected small business owners to apply for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan to assist them with necessary funding to rebuild."
More information about the loan program can be found at FloridaJobs.org/EBL.
DeSantis also suspended tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge for an additional 30 days while the state awaits the timeline for repairs to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. Tolls are suspended until 6 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23.
The bridge was taken out by loose Skanska construction barges during the storm.
DeSantis told local officials after the storm that the toll would remain suspended until the Pensacola Bay Bridge was open again to traffic.
Jim Little can be reached at email@example.com and 850-208-9827.
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