WOODWARD — Emergency workers, residents and volunteers are tired after a week of cleanup following Sunday's tornado, but financial help and manpower could be on the way soon, authorities said.
The White House on Friday denied Gov. Mary Fallin's request for assistance to aid individuals and businesses in Woodward County that were hit hard.
“Having toured the damage in Woodward, I know firsthand how devastating last week's tornado was to this community,” Fallin said. “This was a disaster that killed six people and destroyed numerous homes and businesses. It is appropriate and necessary for the federal government to provide the disaster assistance that exists exactly for situations like this one.”
While disappointed, Fallin said the state is continuing to work to bring assistance to those affected by the storm.
She announced that the state will now request a disaster declaration for Woodward County through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
If approved, an SBA declaration would deliver low-interest disaster loans for renters, homeowners and business owners to repair or replace any property damaged by the tornado and severe weather which was not covered by insurance or other assistance programs. The loan program also would be available to assist businesses that suffered economic injury because of the storms. If the request is approved, under SBA rules, the assistance also would be available in counties contiguous to Woodward County.
Meanwhile, Matt Lehenbauer, Woodward emergency management director, said cleanup is taking a physical toll on those involved. His wife, Conyetta Lehenbauer, was treated for dehydration and a back injury this week after helping with the cleanup.
“It has been an extremely long week,” he said. “We're all starting to get pretty run down. Thank God for the volunteers or we would have been run down a long time ago.”
American Red Cross spokesman Rusty Surette said more volunteer help will be coming this weekend. The Red Cross is hosting an orientation and training for volunteers at 9 a.m. Saturday at the agency's Woodward office, 1209 Ninth St.
“Anytime something like this happens, we have a number of people who want to step forward and help out,” Surette said. “We are really hoping to see a lot of people who live in that area.”
Surette said volunteers will learn how to serve meals, deliver relief supplies and work at a shelter.
Lehenbauer said local businesses and community leaders have stepped forward with financial help.
One immediate need is fixing the city's storm siren system for the next potential round of deadly weather, he said.
“We lost about a third of our sirens in the tornado,” Lehenbauer said.
“We are working with several companies to try to get our system in place and enhanced as quickly as possible.”