By Robert Flippo
Once again, Canadian County has been declared a disaster area by the federal government. For Piedmont residents, this is familiar territory. After all, the last time the government declared Canadian County a disaster was after the tornado that ripped through town two years ago.
This time, the disaster declaration is in response to the tornado that hit El Reno May 31. Although most of the damage occurred south of Piedmont, it is important for Piedmont residents to understand that the declaration covers more than just damage directly caused by the tornado. For instance, the most relevant damage covered by the declaration is flooding, which Piedmont saw its fair share of as a result of the storms responsible for the El Reno tornado.
Jim Crosby, Piedmont city manager, already has an idea of what he will be submitting to FEMA in order to receive aid.
“I’m going to turn in the roads and bridges that were damaged,” Crosby said. “But with roads sometimes it’s difficult.”
In addition to the damage to the roads, a number of houses were damaged by flooding. According to Crosby, at least ten houses were damaged by flooding in the city limits and another eight were damaged just outside the city limits. However, it is up to the individual owners of those homes to contact FEMA and determine whether they qualify for assistance.
“I’ve dealt with them before and they’ve been very up front with what they can and can’t do,” Crosby said. “FEMA can be very, very helpful.”
For those who do qualify for assistance with FEMA, Crosby has some advice.
“Documentation is the most difficult thing with FEMA,”Crosby said. “There are some things insurance might not cover so good record keeping is essential.”
As far as registering with FEMA, there are a few options. Registration can be done over the phone at 1-800-621-3362, online at disasterassistance.gov or in person at the newly opened FEMA disaster recovery center in El Reno.
The disaster recovery center at the Jenks Simmons Field House, located at 214 N. Country Club Boulevard in El Reno is actually designated as a multi-agency recovery center set up by the Red Cross. It is currently home to 16 non-profit and government agencies, including the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the recent additions of FEMA and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The disaster assistance offered by these organizations includes housing assistance grants which help pay for temporary housing and home repairs not covered by insurance or other sources as well as grants to help pay for personal property replacement.
Nate Custer, public information officer for FEMA, encouraged anyone with questions to come in to the disaster recovery center and have those questions answered face to face.
The disaster recovery center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until further notice.