MIAMI, Okla. — Ottawa County has been added to the list of counties in Oklahoma that are now eligible for federal disaster assistance because of the tornado and flooding this spring.
In a news release, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced that Ottawa County was one of seven additional counties designated for disaster assistance, in response to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s state emergency declaration last month. The assistance is for anyone who was affected by storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding that occurred this spring and continue to be felt.
Thomas Anderson, Miami emergency management director and police chief, said the declaration authorizes business owners and homeowners within the county to apply for financial assistance such as low-interest loans, grants or individual assistance. In order to receive FEMA funding, the entire state had to experience at least $1 million in damages.
“Without that (emergency) declaration, there’s no way to get assistance,” Anderson said. “It also allows us to recoup some of the money that we’re putting into recovery, as far as the public assistance, city facilities, debris removal and equipment.”
Some of the areas that were hit the hardest by floodwaters were the Steve Owens Boulevard corridor, residences near Tar Creek, the fairgrounds and the pool in Riverview Park. Anderson said at one point, a business on Steve Owens had about 8 feet of water in it.
In 2017, similar flooding occurred in May, causing more than $500,000 in estimated damages in Miami and Wyandotte. Anderson said his office currently completing damage assessment reports on properties and couldn’t give an estimated figure on total damages. But from the look of it, he believes this year’s flooding may have been worse than that of two years ago.
“We had a lot more residences, residential buildings and businesses impacted (this year),” Anderson said.
Anderson noted that in addition to the flooding last month, the area experienced a tornado April 30 that started in the southwest part of town and traveled diagonally through the city.
“It did a considerable amount of damage to our electric grid and our utility customers,” Anderson said. “At one point, they say approximately 5,500 people were without power. It took about four days to fully restore power to everybody in Miami.”
In order to receive disaster assistance from the state, the county must have at least $122,000 in damages. Anderson said he’s confident that threshold has been met for both natural disasters.
“There are two different disaster periods — April 30 to May 6 and from May 7 on,” Anderson said. “We just had FEMA and the Oklahoma Emergency Management in town today (Monday) to do our assessment for the first disaster period, which I believe we reached the county threshold. Now, we’ll have another assessment for the flood period from the seventh on, and that’s easily going to meet the $122,000.”