Disaster Recovery Center Opens

Tuesday, May 20th 2008, 12:20 pm
By: News On 6

FEMA has opened a disaster recovery center in Picher.

The center will be located in the Picher Community Center at 116 Devilliers Circle, which is located behind Picher City Hall.

Federal Emergency Management officials say the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

FEMA officials say the center will house representatives from a number of organizations including the IRS, state of Oklahoma, VA and the SBA to answer questions, provide information and help people register to receive aid.

As News On 6's Chris Wright reports, the disaster recovery center in Picher is supposed to give vital information to those who have lost everything.

Shanda Hartsock's Ottawa County home was destroyed by the May 10 tornado. It touched down here, before moving east to Picher, where it killed six and leveled more than 100 homes.

To make matters worse, Shanda's insurance expired on May 3, just one week before the twister hit.

"The most scariest feeling ever. Everything you have besides your family is basically wrapped up in your home life," said tornado victim, Shanda Hartsock.

Shanda's questions about insurance, federal aid and homeowner loans brought her to FEMA's disaster recovery center. She spent more than four hours meeting with various officials, and says the process was informative, but a little longer than anticipated.

"It was supposed to only take 45 minutes, or that's what they told us when we got here," said Hartsock.

"What a disaster recovery area is, I like to call it one-stop shopping," said Brad Craine with FEMA.

In addition to FEMA, that one-stop shopping includes representatives from the Small Business Administration, and tax experts. Storm victims can ask any question they wish of them, as long as it's not related to the ongoing federal buyout of Picher.

"We are here strictly for the May 10 tornadoes and to help people financially with their losses from that time," said Craine.

Shanda says that her session did ease some of her anxiety, but admits that it is just a first step in what will be a long road to recovery.

Shanda was a rarity among those who visited the recovery center on Tuesday. Because her home sits outside of Picher, she is not affected by the buyout, and her family plans on rebuilding. The recovery center will remain open six days a week, as long as people need it.