Community Struggles to Rebuild After Tornado
Hundreds of tornado victims in Cookson might have to wait until the first of the year for financial help. Some people thought the Small Business Administration was supposed to be in the area today but the SBA says they are waiting on some additional signatures before they can meet with people.
News On 6 waited at the fire station with a group of people as they found out the SBA might not be able to show up until after Christmas. People were discouraged and frustrated but they say this is not the first set back they have dealt with as they try and rebuild.
People drove to the Cookson Fire Department today ready to start rebuilding. Some came with stories.
"It will be with you the rest of your life when you see what people have lost," said resident Buddy Hunt.
Others came with busted truck windows and totaled cars- visible signs of the tornado's aftermath.
"I'm hoping we can get some kind of arrangement set up or we can build a barn back," said Hunt.
Boxes of disaster assistance gear is sitting in the bay but firefighters say the Small Business Administration might not be here until the first of the year. It's just one of many setbacks the town is going through on their way to recovery.
"It's become very aggravating at times trying to coordinate the different agencies,” said Cookson Fire Chief Tim Knight, "Stuff we would think would be very simple like hauling off household debris has become a major hurdle for the entire county.”
Knight says the initial community response was amazing but says the county doesn't have the financial resources needed to handle the disaster on its own.
"As soon as FEMA was not eligible to come in we found the state was not…the county was not prepared to handle a disaster like this on a local level," said Knight.
City leaders say they are organizing cleanup efforts but say they need help to get the community on its feet again.
"It's very frustrating that were almost 3 weeks into this and it's not much better than two nights after the tornado," says Knight, "As a community, it's very frustrating when people want to do something but they don't have the means to do it. The county cannot financially do a lot of this. So who do we turn to? What do we do?."
The SBA says the situation was a miscommunication and they are ready to help the community. They say they are still waiting on some final signatures for the SBA disaster declaration. They say they can’t come and help until they have those final signatures.