City inspectors hit the streets in damage assessments

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 10:45pm

Every single inspector in Metro Codes was out assessing and documenting flood levels throughout Nashville Wednesday afternoon. It is a process that should expedite the process if those residents apply for FEMA aid.

Tim Roland and Steve Regen are a team of inspectors in the building division that covered Inglewood on Wednesday.

“This is all that we’re doing right now is damage assessments. We’re not doing any normal inspections,” Roland said. They have been working steadily throughout Nasvhille since Monday.

Each resident visited has a flood story, a bit of confusion receiving help and usually someone to blame. Potential scapegoats on this trip included the Army Corps of Engineers, the water company, careless neighbors with faulty drainage and property owners renting to tenants.

Henry Romersa owns flooded property in the Historic Tanglewood neighborhood, designed by Robert Condra. Six feet under the unwanted lake in his backyard lies his swimming pool. On Monday, the water crept up over his patio and a few feet into his basement; it’s the worst flooding Romersa has seen, including a 1975 mishap at nearby J. Percy Priest Dam.

“It was weird because it was fine Sunday, flooded but not in the house,” he said. “I don’t know if they released water from the dam or what, but the water rose fast.”

The damage was evident throughout Inglewood. Paul Landin was busy drying out his belongings. He had 5 feet of water in his basement.

“My water tank was submerged, my HVAC was submerged. We’re talking $10,000 just like that,” he said. “And of course I don’t have flood insurance.”

There is some confusion about receiving help. Residents must apply for FEMA aid; just because a Metro inspector marks a home as severely damaged does not mean a check is on the way. Not all flooded homes will qualify. Roland commented on one house on a hill that sustained damage from water seeping through as it rolled down the slope.

“We’re only concerned with flood level right now, not damage from going downhill. I don’t know if they’ll be able to apply for FEMA aid if it’s not from flood water,” he said.

Residents have countless questions and often view the arrival of code inspectors as an opportunity for all inquiries.

“They are asking us a lot of questions we don’t necessarily know the answers to,” said Steve Regen. “We aren’t trying to avoid them but it kind of slows things down.”

Paula Penrod, who took on over a foot of floodwater, echoed the most common sentiment of flood victims. “I need to find out who I need to talk to at Metro to get help,” she said after talking with inspectors.

FEMA said residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance Wednesday by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper's office also issued guidelines to apply for aid. Read them here (PDF).