FEMA Mulling Major Disaster Declaration

Tuesday, February 6th 2007, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

FEMA officials toured Muskogee Tuesday to interview people with damage from last month's ice storm. It's part of the process to get a Major Disaster Declaration. News on 6 reporter Steve Berg reports that a Major Disaster Declaration would open the door for financial aid for individual homeowners and businesses that were hard-hit by the storm.

Federal help is already available for things like public infrastructure and cleanup. But there are many private citizens, who lack insurance, who are hoping for a helping hand too.

A towering dead tree still looms over Robin Burrell's Muskogee house. She says branches from the tree fell punching holes in her roof and caving in a wall.

"I was here and the trees and stuff started falling down," she said. "My husband came and said a tree was inside the roof, up in the roof."

FEMA spokeswoman Julie Bradford says they're asking people like Burrell what kind of damage they have, what kind of repairs they might have already made, and what they've spent on repairs.

"We're looking for tree limbs in the roofs where you have the actual structural damage," Bradford said.

People might be able to get help for other kinds of expenses too. For example, Burrell and her husband had to spend three nights in a motel while their electricity was out.

"My advice to folks in this area is keep all your receipts, Bradford said. “Make sure you have everything you've spent money on, and if a declaration comes through, you'll need those receipts."

"I keep all mine. I keep them in a big ole shoebox,” Burrell said.

The criteria for a Major Disaster Declaration is a murky area. But FEMA officials will look at the number of damaged homes, the amount of damage to each of those homes, and the financial status of the families involved. Bradford says there's not one specific threshold that has to be met, that applies to all disasters.

Of course, the other big question that people have is: When will we know if we've been declared a major disaster area? FEMA couldn't offer us any sort of timeframe on that either.