FEMA Surveys Jasper County, Mo., After Disaster Declaration

The federal response follows shortly after President Donald Trump approved the state’s request for a major disaster declaration on July 9. Jasper County was one of 20 Missouri counties eligible to receive federal aid.

by Kimberly Barker, The Joplin Globe, Mo. / July 16, 2019
Residents dodge utility poles along the commercial district on Ellis Boulevard in Jefferson City, Mo., after a tornado ripped through their community on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS

(TNS) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has boots on the ground this week in Jasper County to help residents who were affected by the severe storms this spring register for individual disaster assistance.

The federal response follows shortly after President Donald Trump approved the state’s request for a major disaster declaration on July 9. Jasper County was one of 20 counties in Missouri to be eligible to receive federal aid to help assist businesses and residences affected by the flooding, tornadoes and other severe storms that began April 29.

On Sunday, FEMA officials began arriving in the region, where they surveyed the areas hit hardest by the natural disasters, including in and around the city limits of Carl Junction. An EF3 tornado touched down May 22 in Carl Junction, damaging more than 300 homes.

Steve Lawver, city administrator, estimated the severe storms caused about $16.5 million in damage but said there’s no real way of knowing the exact figure.

“People are not required to tell us how much damage they had,” Lawver said in an email to the Globe. “I believe they’re (FEMA) doing the Individual Assistance category at this time, which is the category to help homeowners. I believe it will make no difference in the recovery of the individual homeowners. People have done a great job getting themselves taken care of with their own insurance.”

In coordination with state and local emergency management, FEMA officials obtained a list of residences that sustained damage and began canvassing the neighborhood of Garland Lane on Monday to help with disaster assistance registration. Representatives will be wearing FEMA shirts and a photo identification badge.

“Many people have registered to date already,” said John Snyder, crew lead for FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance team in Jasper County. “I recommend anyone who had damage to register. A lot of people think just because they have insurance doesn’t mean they can’t register. A lot of times, FEMA will fill the gap that the insurance doesn’t cover.”

Federal funds may be able to help affected individuals receive grant money for temporary rental assistance, basic home repairs and other needs not covered by insurance, according to FEMA.

“FEMA assistance can really help those with immediate needs, which could be anything from medication, if you lost some of that in the damages, we can help cover you for that, or if you have a wheelchair that got damaged through the storms, we can help replace that as well,” said Kristiana Sanford, with the Public Information Office for FEMA Region 7.

For those not needing federal assistance, FEMA coordinates with the Small Business Administration as well as voluntary, charitable and faith-based groups to help people recover.

“There’s a lot of help out there for people, and we’re trying to spread that word,” Sanford said. “We’re urging people to apply for FEMA assistance as soon as possible, so they can start that road to recovery. FEMA assistance will never make them whole, but it’s to help give them a leg up.”

Many residents continue to cleanup and are trying to fall back into a routine to gain a sense of normalcy again. Sam Burch, 76, of Carl Junction, worked on Monday to spruce up his flower bed, where he said he’s trying to make the best of what he has.

His home on 404 Lakeview Lane sustained significant roof damage, as well as damage to the garage doors, brick siding and the air conditioning unit. At least a dozen trees around the property were downed and uprooted.

“It’s taken a while to rebuild, but we’re blessed that we survived and are able to live in our house,” Burch said. “Contractors are supposed to come by this week and redo the roof.”

Burch and his wife, Judy, took shelter in their storm shelter in the garage during the event.

“It was worse than I expected,” Sam Burch said when describing the damages the night of the tornado. “You couldn’t even get through the street because trees had fallen. Five houses on this side (of the neighborhood) are uninhabitable. They’ve already torn two of the houses down.”

The Burches said they’re fortunate they didn’t lose their house, and though they won’t be applying for FEMA assistance, they’re glad it can be an option for those in need.

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©2019 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.)

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