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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Government Response
7:30 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Low-Interest Loans Go To Individuals, Businesses

Scott Burkhart rebuilt his house using an SBA disaster loan after the May 20 tornado leveled his home in Moore, Okla.
Kate Carlton Greer Oklahoma Tornado Project

After a presidentially declared disaster like last year’s tornadoes in Central Oklahoma, the U.S. Small Business Administration often steps in, offering low-interest loans to help homeowners and businesses recover. But the SBA has been criticized in the past for being slow to respond. And following the 2013 storms in the Sooner State, many people still have complaints about the process. 

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Government Response
12:53 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Cities, State Scramble To Spend Community Storm Grants

A photograph giving an overhead view of tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma on May 21, 2013.
Oklahoma National Guard

More than half of the federal disaster funds being offered to Oklahoma for recovery from the violent storms of 2013 are in the form of community development grants.

But that cash aid comes with strings attached. And those strings have state and local officials scrambling to figure out how to spend the money effectively and whether they can meet federal deadlines in spending all of the grant funds, totaling $146 million. Whatever is not spent will be left on the table.

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Government Response
7:35 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Auditing The Storm: HUD Funds Trickle Slowly Into Oklahoma Disaster Areas

Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

In the year since a series of severe storms devastated Central Oklahoma, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded nearly $146 million to the city of Moore and the state to help with recovery. But so far, only a fraction of that has been spent, and spending the money has turned out to be harder than you’d think. 

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Government Response
12:46 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Hazard Funds Don’t Always Go To Damaged Areas

Clifton Adcock Oklahoma Watch

As a massive tornado bore down on Moore on the afternoon of May 20, 2013, residents scrambled to find shelter. 

Some retreated to safe rooms at home or in buildings. Many hid in closets, bathrooms or hallways.

Meanwhile, in Stillwater, people were also on alert because a tornado watch had been issued that day. But the city received only a light rain and no wind damage, according to the National Weather Service.

The destruction and deaths caused by the Moore tornado led many people in the city to believe that a residential storm shelter was essential.

But after the May 20 tornado, when the federal government began approving cash aid for projects like shelters to prevent the future loss of life and property, Moore was shut out of the program, according to data analyzed by Oklahoma Watch in a joint project with KGOU Radio/The Oklahoma Tornado Project.

Stillwater, on the other hand, has so far gotten the largest share of federal “hazard mitigation” funds released under the presidential disaster declaration, records show. Stillwater will spend about $1.9 million, most of it federal money, to help pay for more than 700 safe rooms in residents’ homes. The same program will allow Oklahoma State University there to spend $73,000 to install a lightning detection and warning system, needed partly for sporting events.

Moore has not been left out in the cold.

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