Disaster Aid Sought For Public Damage

Friday, July 13th 2007, 12:35 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Gov. Brad Henry on Friday asked the federal government to provide financial help to repair damaged roads, bridges and other public structures in 17 flood-ravaged Oklahoma counties.

Henry also announced that three more counties had been approved for individual assistance. They are Comanche, Pottawatomie and Nowata. Washington and Ottawa counties were approved earlier.

Residents in the five counties will be able to apply for federal assistance for housing repairs and temporary housing, disaster unemployment aid and grants for serious needs not met by other programs. Low-interest loans also are available for individuals and businesses through the Small Business Administration.

The request for a major disaster declaration for public assistance came as a new round of rain fell on parts of the state already saturated by weeks of rainfall, causing creeks and rivers to overrun their banks and widespread flash flooding.

``Rain is falling across the state again today and will make matters worse in areas that were already hard hit by storms,'' Henry said. ``We will stay on top of the situation and make sure people get the help they need.''

The National Weather Service said the state would likely get a break from the rain on Saturday.

In Friday's request, public assistance was sought for the following counties: Bryan, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Hughes, Jefferson, Kiowa, Logan, McIntosh, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Seminole, Stephens and Tillman.

If approved, the latest disaster request would deliver federal funding to assist cities, towns and counties with infrastructure repairs and costs associated with responding to flooding, tornadoes and other severe weather.

Public damage assessments are continuing in other affected counties, including those in northeastern Oklahoma, but they cannot be finished until high waters recede.

``The floods that have damaged hundreds of homes and businesses have also wreaked havoc on roads, bridges and other public structures,'' Henry said. ``It will cost millions of dollars to repair infrastructure and state and local governments will need federal assistance to complete that process in a timely manner.''

Henry has asked the U.S. secretary of agriculture to deliver aid to farmers and ranchers in all 77 counties. The siege of storms and rain is expected to drastically reduce the state's wheat crop.

The governor said as damage assessment surveys are completed, he will request that other counties be added to the declaration for individual and public assistance as conditions warrant.