Public and Private Aid
7:30 am
Mon September 22, 2014

United Way Tornado Donations Rebuild Homes And Promote Physical, Mental Health

Ben and Kristen Jones stand on their empty lot that Rebuilding Together OKC is building using United Way tornado donations.
Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project

In the wake of last year’s devastating tornadoes, millions of dollars in donations went to The United Way of Central Oklahoma. The non-profit organization also agreed to administer Governor Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Strong tornado relief campaign. Together, the funds raised a total of $20 million. 

One week after the tornado hit the city of Moore in May of 2013, country singer Blake Shelton showed up to host a benefit concert called Healing in the Heartland.

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Recovery
7:22 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Moore's Rush To Rebuild Left Hundreds Of Homes With A Lesser Building Code

The City of Moore's Shane Speegle inspects one home that is subject to the city's newer, more stringent building code.
Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project

This March, Moore, Oklahoma became the first city in the nation to adopt a tornado-specific building code. City officials wanted homes to be able to withstand an EF-2 or EF-3 tornado. 

But six months after the new regulations took effect, it turns out not all new homes built in the tornado’s path will have these upgrades. 

Last week, on a block near Moore’s rebuilt Plaza Towers Elementary School, city official Shane Speegle walked through one house that had just been framed to check the progress.

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Business
7:30 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Insurance Increase: Homeowners' Premiums Skyrocket After Oklahoma's 2013 Storms

State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a series of severe storms swept through the state in May of last year, insurance carriers paid out over $1 billion in claims, making it the nation’s most costly disaster of 2013.

Most insurance issues have now been settled, but many homeowners are looking at higher rates than they were paying before the storm. 

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Preparedness
7:30 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Without FEMA Funds, Numerous Oklahoma Counties Sit On Expired Disaster Plans

Grady County's emergency manager Dale Thompson is in charge of updating a county-wide hazard mitigation plan, identifying each hazard the area faces.
Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project

With threats ranging from ice storms to tornadoes, Oklahoma ranks first in the nation in the number of presidentially declared disasters over the past 14 years.

That’s why the state says it's important for local officials to maintain hazard mitigation plans, explaining the steps they're taking to reduce or eliminate their risks. But keeping things up-to-date has proven tough. 

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Preparedness
7:00 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Moore, Okla. Waits To Apply For FEMA's Safe Room Rebate Program

Wesley Fryer Flickr Creative Commons

After last year’s tornadoes in central Oklahoma, FEMA allocated $4 million in hazard mitigation funding for communities to safeguard against future severe weather.

The City of Moore didn’t qualify for that money because of an expired hazard mitigation plan. Moore has since updated the plan and is now eligible for future FEMA money. But it doesn’t look like officials plan on applying for that funding any time soon. 

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Recovery
7:30 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Students Return To New Schools After 2013 Moore Tornado

10-year-old Marissa Miley returns Tuesday, August 19, to Briarwood Elementary School
Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project

This week marks 15 months since a deadly tornado swept through Moore, Oklahoma, leveling two schools and taking the lives of seven children inside Plaza Towers Elementary. It’s been a long journey, but the schools finally reopen tomorrow, and the kids are excited to be back. 

10-year-old Marissa Miley was finishing up third grade at Moore’s Briarwood Elementary last year when an EF-5 tornado destroyed her school.

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Recovery
7:30 am
Mon August 11, 2014

VIDEO: Tornado Survivors Share Stories Of Strength

Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma’s Writing Center was one of many groups that stepped up after last year’s devastating storms to distribute water, clothing and other necessities to those who had lost everything. Now, more than a year later, the group has launched a new program to help survivors recover. 

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Public and Private Aid
9:30 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Storm Damage Created Challenges For Hotel With Largest Approved Disaster Loan

Auditing The Storm: Disaster 4117 is a series of investigative reports tracking federal disaster aid following the Spring 2013 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. This series represents a collaborative effort between The Oklahoma Tornado Project and Oklahoma Watch.
Credit Oklahoma Watch

Among the more than 900 federal disaster loans offered because of the 2013 storms in Oklahoma, the largest was to cover damage to a hotel east of downtown Oklahoma City.

The 188-room Bricktown Hotel and Convention Center, located about three miles east of the Bricktown entertainment district, was approved for a $748,500 disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration for damage in the May 31 storms.

Many businesses and residents approved for “Disaster 4117” loans rejected the offers. But the Bricktown Hotel, which court records show faced financial problems stemming from storm damage in 2009, likely would have closed if not for the 2013 disaster loan, said the hotel’s owner Tom Seabrooke.

“If we hadn’t gotten it (the loan), we would be closed, and 40 people would be out of work,” said Seabrooke, who owns the hotel through his firm, Bricktown Capital LLC.

The story of the Bricktown Hotel’s experiences with damage from two storms five years apart points to how damage can vary widely in one area and how it can lead to disputes over the extent of insurance coverage for storm damage.

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Government Response
7:30 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Auditing The Storm: A Look At Low-Interest Disaster Loans

The Bricktown Hotel and Convention Center was approved for the largest Small Business Administration disaster loan for damage in the May 31 storms
Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project

After a federally-declared disaster, the U.S. Small Business Administration issues low-interest loans to help homeowners and businesses recover. The agency disbursed over $20 million to Oklahomans following last year’s severe weather outbreak in the central part of the state, so we wanted to look into exactly what it takes to get one of those loans. 

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Public and Private Aid
9:30 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Dilemma For Storm Victims: Accept Or Reject Disaster Loans?

Auditing The Storm: Disaster 4117 is a series of investigative reports tracking federal disaster aid following the Spring 2013 Oklahoma tornado outbreak. This series represents a collaborative effort between The Oklahoma Tornado Project and Oklahoma Watch.
Credit Oklahoma Watch

The tornadoes, flooding and hail that struck Oklahoma last year left hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, causing many home and business owners to seek help in the form of low-interest federal loans.

The U.S. Small Business Administration approved 929 applications for about $50 million in low-interest disaster loans for people, businesses and nonprofits, according to SBA data acquired for Oklahoma Watch by the nonprofit group, Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Most applicants, 599, took out the loans, but often for much less than what was offered, SBA figures show.

The total amount loaned by the SBA was $21 million, or 42 percent of the approved total amount. All but 52 of the 929 applications were from individuals. About half of the total amount approved was for applicants in Oklahoma City and Moore, which took the brunt of the damage from the May 20 and May 31, 2013, storms.

See a list of approved disaster loans for each city in Oklahoma, of which only 42% were actually used.

The purpose of the disaster-loan program is help owners recover from physical damage and, in the case of businesses, from economic harm.

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