The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) continues to work with local emergency managers and FEMA to assist individuals and communities impacted by the recent severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding.
FEDERAL ASSISTANCE REQUESTS
Since July 7, five Oklahoma counties (Comanche, Nowata, Ottawa, Pottawatomie and Washington) have been declared federal disaster areas and received Individual Assistance. We continue to await a response to Gov. Henry’s July 13th request that Public Assistance be added to the declaration for the counties of Bryan, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Hughes, Jefferson, Kiowa, Logan, McIntosh, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Seminole, Stephens and Tillman. Public Assistance helps cities, towns and counties with infrastructure repairs and costs associated with responding to disasters.
We’re also awaiting word on the request that the beginning date for the disaster incident period to be changed to May 24th. The disaster declaration issued July 7 identifies the incident period beginning June 10. Governor Henry originally requested the May 24th incident period citing widespread excessive rainfall and severe storms experienced since that date. His request was supported by a letter from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Today a closing date of July 25, 2007 was announced for the incident period. Damages that occurred after that date are not eligible for disaster assistance.
A total of 2,375 applications for individual assistance have been received from Oklahomans statewide. The applications are phoned in on the FEMA tele-registration line (800-621-FEMA) or submitted on-line at www.fema.gov. Each application is from a household or a business, so each may represent 3 or 4 individuals.
Of the applications received, 1,650 are from the five counties declared for Individual Assistance. The highest number of applications from a single county is 802 from Ottawa County which includes Miami. The remaining 725 applications are from non-declared counties.
Nearly $5 million in disaster assistance has been approved for Oklahomans in the five designated counties under the Individual Assistance program. This includes low interest disaster loans provided by the Small Business Administration and funds for temporary housing and emergency repairs for individuals and businesses.
This week efforts continued to identify other counties where Individual Assistance may be needed. Through applications received by phone or online and surveys completed by local emergency managers, 16 counties were identified as possibly needing Individual Assistance and preliminary damage assessments (PDAs) were completed by teams of FEMA, OEM and local emergency management officials. The counties are Blaine, Bryan, Canadian, Cleveland, Cotton, Grady, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, Oklahoma, Payne, Pontotoc, Rogers, Seminole and Stephens. The PDAs involved going to individual homes to assess the degree of damage and the amount of insurance coverage available. Based on the findings, we anticipate an additional request for Individual Assistance will be made next week. Below is a complete list of applications received per county. Please note in some cases the registration numbers don’t accurately reflect the number of homes, businesses with damages documented through the assistance of local emergency managers. One example is in Bryan County which shows only 12 applications for assistance while PDAs identified more than 50 homes damaged in the Lake Texoma area. We continue to urge anyone with damage to their home, business or other property to register for assistance with FEMA.
More than 1,464 individuals have visited the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs), where applicants can visit one-on-one with specialists to learn more about available assistance programs. In Miami the DRC is opened Monday through Saturday at the Furniture Gallery, 1601 N. Main. In Shawnee the DRC will be opened July 31 through August 5 at the Conference Center Building at the Expo Center. A DRC remains open in Lawton at 4135 West Gore until July 29. The Lawton DRC will reopen August 7-12. The DRCs in South Coffeyville and Bartlesville will close on Saturday.
We continue to deal with the challenges regarding temporary housing issues facing primarily Ottawa and Nowata counties. The plan to use FEMA travel trailers and mobile homes is now on hold due to health concerns regarding formaldehyde. Last Friday FEMA halted the trailer program nationwide. Oklahoma has requested all FEMA trailers and mobile homes be tested by EPA before allowing citizens to move into the temporary housing units.
We are pressing for resolution of the situation and have called on HUD, USDA and other resources to help identify further housing options. In the meantime, individual assistance officers are working with each of the applicants regarding their temporary housing needs. Work also continues to make sure all logistic, permit and other requirements are complete in order to expedite the process if and when the health concerns regarding the trailers and mobile homes are resolved. About 40 FEMA trailers remain staged near the Miami turnpike exit.
Oklahomans who lost their jobs because of the storms, tornadoes and flooding may also be eligible to receive unemployment compensation. The benefits, which also extend to self-employed persons, are funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in a program administered by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Please note the deadline to apply for these benefits is looming. Residents of Ottawa and Washington counties have until August 8 to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Residents of Comanche, Nowata and Pottawatomie counties have until August 15 to apply. To file for DUA, an individual must first establish a regular state unemployment claim. To establish a claim and start the DUA process, individuals may call (405) 522-1500 or 1-800-555-1554.
Work to assist animals impacted by the disaster is also underway. This week more than 60 animals displaced by the Miami area flooding were placed with animal rescue groups that are working to secure their placement in adoptive homes. This initiative was coordinated by OEM, FEMA, the State Animal Response Team along with local emergency managers and animal shelter officials.
Efforts also continue to bring Public Assistance to the cities, towns and counties affected by the severe weather. Currently, we have completed or are in the process of completing PDAs in 58 counties. Very preliminary estimates show $50 million in damages to the infrastructure since Memorial Day weekend. Most of the damage is to roads and bridges.
Applications Received for Individual Assistance by County as of July 26: