Monday, June 1, 2015
For many Oklahomans dealing with flooding, storms and tornadoes, May was a difficult month.
In the past few weeks, eleven Oklahomans lost their lives due to storms. In the period from May 5 to May 10 alone, over 828 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
As the waters recede, we know we will find more damage. Already a preliminary survey has identified more than $13 million in uninsured infrastructure losses. In some counties, flooding was so bad that it rendered roads and bridges impassable.
The damage is significant, and recovery will not happen overnight. But it will happen.
Federal, state and local resources are all being used to rebuild and recover. Generous corporations – like Google and Walmart – have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief efforts; and organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Southern Baptists are all providing assistance to those displaced by storms and flooding.
So far, three counties have been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for individual assistance. Families and businesses in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Grady counties who have suffered damages are eligible for cash assistance on housing repairs and temporary housing, low-interest loans and resources like unemployment assistance. Earlier this week I asked FEMA to add 13 more counties to that list based on damage assessments assembled by the state.
I have also requested public assistance – meaning federal resources for municipal and county governments to aid with infrastructure repairs and debris removal – for 16 more counties. As damage estimates continue to come in, we expect to request both individual and public assistance for additional parts of the state.
With a disaster of this magnitude, there will always be questions about why one county received approval for aid faster than another. There will be frustration with delays. When someone has just seen their home washed away or their place of business destroyed, frustration is understandable.
The fact of the matter, however, is that the state is working quickly and efficiently with our federal partners to assess damage and request assistance. The most important thing that Oklahomans can do is to carefully report all damage to FEMA and help the state build the case for receiving an appropriate level of disaster aid. If you have suffered any type of storm damage in May, please be sure to report that damage by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
Oklahomans have been here before. We have weathered storms and tornadoes, wildfires and even a terrorist attack. We recover, we rebuild and we grow stronger. May was a difficult month; but we are resilient people and I am continually impressed by the strength of our community, the generosity and compassion shown by Oklahomans during times of crisis, and the quickness with which we bounce back from hardships.