MOORE — Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would be in the Oklahoma City area throughout the recovery from Monday's tornado.
Napolitano was in Moore to view tornado damage with Gov. Mary Fallin. During a news conference, Napolitano said the department will cover 85 percent of the cost of debris removal for the first 30 days.
After that, the department will cover 80 percent of the cost of debris removal for another 30 days. Removal of debris left by the storm is one of the primary services the area needs, she said.
“We want to make this process as smooth as possible,” she said. “We will be here to stay until this recovery is complete.”
Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said federal assistance began appearing in Moore hours after a tornado tore through the city Monday afternoon. President Barack Obama called Lewis on Tuesday to offer condolences and any available federal resources.
Unlike the May 3, 1999, tornado, when city officials waited for three days for Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to arrive, FEMA crews rolled into Moore less than two hours after Monday's tornado, Lewis said.
“It is a completely different organization than it was in '99,” he said.
The EF5 tornado followed a path similar to the one in 1999. Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy said residents in nearby neighborhoods had worked hard to rebuild the area.
“And then it's just destroyed again,” Stacy said.
Residents on the city's east side were out Wednesday afternoon, sorting through the wreckage of their homes to find whatever they could salvage. Although the businesses west of Interstate 35, including the Warren Theatre, have received more attention, Stacy said the storm left many residents on the east side homeless, as well.
“The east side got hit every bit as hard,” he said.
Lewis said he expects to see a building boom in Moore in the coming months. The city has received offers from a number of agencies to assist homeowners.
With Monday's storm, Moore joins a small, sad club of towns that have been struck twice by an EF5 tornado. Despite that, he said, residents remain resilient and determined to bring the city back.
“That's what we do here,” he said. “We rebuild.”
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. read more ›