Devastated: Government Can Assist With Recovery From Tornado Outbreak

Devastation in the wake of the May 20, 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma  © 2013 Lyann Valadez

Devastation in the wake of the May 20, 2013 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma
© 2013 Lyann Valadez

Between May 18 and June 2, 2013, central Oklahoma suffered a tornado outbreak that affected several Oklahoma City metropolitan areas. On May 20, Moore, a city on the southern outskirts of Oklahoma City, experienced the most devastating and publicized tornado. While media have reported 10,000 – 12,000 destroyed homes as a result of the tornado, the fact is approximately 1,200 homes were destroyed by the Moore tornado. About the tornado damage, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak states, “We’ve had 81,000 claims. Of those 41,000 are for homes and 40,000 are autos.” According to Doak, the goal of the Insurance Department is “to reduce out of pocket expenses for consumers.” He understands that people are concerned “whether they’re going to get cancelled, whether they can afford insurance premiums, and what they’re future premiums are going to be.” Doak acknowledges that the claims process can be complicated, frustrating, and confusing for people affected by the storms. Doak points out that there is a mediation process in place to settle insurance conflicts that would otherwise end up in court. The EAGLE Program (Ending Arguments Gently, Legally and Economically) is a Conflict Settlement Program certified by the Oklahoma Supreme Court as part of the state’s Alternative Dispute Resolution System. For information about the EAGLE Program call: (405) 521-2748. The registration period for state and federal disaster assistance normally lasts for 60 days following a disaster, although FEMA has approved a request by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) to extend the registration deadline. The new registration deadline is Monday, August 19, 2013. Residents of designated counties may apply online at disasterassistance.gov or by phone via FEMA's toll-free numbers, (800) 621-3362 or TTY (800) 462-7585. Specialists are available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily to assist applicants with the registration process. Assistance to individuals with storm related losses might include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and other disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance or other sources. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers Low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and business owners to repair or replace real or personal property.
Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, City Manager Stephen Eddy, School Superintendent Robert Romines, Insurance Commissioner John Doakes, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bates

Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, City Manager Stephen Eddy, School Superintendent Robert Romines, Insurance Commissioner John Doak, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bates
© 2013 Lyann Valadez

At a Tornado Relief Town Hall Meeting held at the Community Center in Moore on July 18, 2013, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis sympathized with families who lost children in Plaza Towers and listened patiently while others talked about their difficulties with insurance companies and emergency responders. Mayor Lewis spoke about the search efforts following the tornado and admitted, “We need an organized system for the future.” He offered to personally meet with anyone who had concerns. When asked whether he thought people were leaving Moore after the tornado, Mayor Lewis stated “most of the people we’ve talked to are coming back.” Long after the storms have passed, however, day-to-day life continues to be disrupted and communities struggle to rebuild. A toll-free Disaster Distress Helpline, 800-985-5990, can provide free, confidential, and multilingual crisis support from trained professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Helpline is also available via SMS—text "TalkWithUs" to 66746. For referrals to the closest crisis centers call 2-1-1. To find out more about disaster assistance, call 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).    

Questions? Comments?