By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Governor Mike Pence has filed a request for disaster assistance for residents affected by the November 17 tornadoes that raked across Indiana. The request for Individual Assistance is part of an appeal that FEMA turned down for aid to Howard County alone. The appeal includes Howard, Boone, Daviess, Fountain, Grant and Tippecanoe counties.
“We continue in our commitment to help Hoosiers who have been devastated by the storms from November 17,” said Governor Pence. “Under FEMA’s guidelines, these counties have the greatest potential for the state to receive federal assistance.”
The National Weather Service has confirmed 28 tornadoes touched down during the severe storms, making it the second largest tornado event in the state’s history. In all 46 counties reported damage from tornadoes and straight line winds that impacted 1,636 structures.
Howard County was hit by two EF-2 tornadoes that damaged 1,077 homes and caused 32 injuries. FEMA turned down the state’s previous request for disaster aid there. “FEMA denied the aid because it determined Howard County did not have enough uninsured losses,” said John Erickson with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. “This appeal covers more counties. We hope this appeal will show the federal officials the large number of people who were impacted and the level of damage the storm created.”
Local, state, and federal officials toured Daviess County again last week to review and reassess the damage. The disaster request says the tornado that hit the Washington area was an EF 2 that traveled 2.8 miles along the ground and was 125 yards wide. It damaged 112 homes, 33 of which were either destroyed or sustained severe damage. The appeal claims “due to the number of rental and low-income homes in the area most individuals did not have insurance and are now left without other affordable housing. Three businesses were destroyed leaving 15 people unemployed.”
In addition the appeal points out that Daviess County was hit by 12-inch snowfall from a winter storm on December 6. “The hardship that the residents endured is overwhelming, and assistance is necessary for pre-tornado conditions to be restored,” claimed the request.
Indiana officials say the storm damage was disbursed over such a large area of the state that it is difficult to show federal officials just how difficult recovery will be for those who were hit. “People lost their homes and for them that is a disaster,” said Erickson. “There are a number of people who have had their lives devastated by this.”
The appeal could take awhile to work through the federal system and there is still no guarantee it will be approved. “There is no timeline for FEMA to respond,” said Erickson. “We think the citizens of Indiana need some relief, so we are hopeful for a quick and favorable reply.”
Meanwhile, the Indiana Office of Homeland Security is still putting together a request for public assistance to help cities and counties recover the cost of repairs and clean up after the storm. “That usually takes a little more time to put together,” said Erickson. “We are still gathering reports. We are not certain when we will file for that.”