Tuesday, May 19, 2015
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today requested a federal disaster declaration for Cleveland, Grady and Oklahoma counties as a result of tornadoes, severe storms and straight-line winds that have occurred since May 5 as well as continued flooding. The designation would provide federal assistance to individuals and businesses in the storm-stricken areas.
In a letter to the president, Fallin wrote that Oklahoma’s latest round of record-breaking severe storms began May 5. Since then, the state has experienced widespread flash flooding, damaging winds, baseball-size hail and at least 25 tornadoes. Three Oklahomans lost their lives because of the storms. In addition, 828 homes and businesses were damaged in the storms. Of those, 157 were destroyed and 237 sustained major damage.
The threat of still more storms, tornadoes and flash flooding continues for the state, Fallin wrote.
“Oklahomans, many still shell-shocked and traumatized from the impacts of the May 2013 storms as well as the storms on March 25, 2015, were victimized once again by this month’s storms,” wrote Fallin.
Voluntary agencies that the state relies on heavily during disasters have also been affected, Fallin wrote. Many organizations, including the Salvation Army and American Red Cross, have not seen the donations typically seen in previous disasters, which has limited the amount of assistance they can provide to victims.
“The totality of these events has left the Oklahoma community, from survivors to first responders, disaster relief agencies to all levels of government, extended beyond their means,” wrote Fallin.
If the governor’s request is approved, those who suffered damage may be eligible for assistance for housing repairs or temporary housing, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property, disaster unemployment assistance, and grants for serious needs and necessary disaster expenses not met by other programs.
If the disaster declaration is granted, additional counties could later be added. Damage assessments of storms that struck other parts of the state May 16-17 are continuing.
Rain started on May 5 across a large part of Oklahoma. More significant rainfall occurred on May 6 as tornadoes struck central Oklahoma along with widespread flash flooding. The flash flooding was so severe it prompted the National Weather Service Office in Norman to issue the first ever “flash flood emergency” for central Oklahoma. Numerous tornadoes occurred, with an EF3 tornado in Bridge Creek, an EF1 in Norman, an EF3 in Oklahoma City and 11 smaller tornadoes elsewhere in Oklahoma. Rainfall totals on May 6 were impressive with widespread 5-7 inches in a few hours. This saturated the ground across Oklahoma, resulting in widespread runoff.
In her letter, the governor wrote that flooding remains a major concern. The Oklahoma Mesonetwork, which consists of weather observation sites across the state, reports 30-day rainfall accumulations between 4 inches in the Panhandle and 16 inches in south-central Oklahoma. Additional rain is expected through the Memorial Day weekend.