Missouri to appeal FEMA disaster aid declaration denial

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Barry County is among the 18 Missouri counties denied disaster aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the Feb. 29 tornados. Governor Jay Nixon is planning to appeal the decision.

"There's no explanation for why [the disaster declaration request was rejected]," said David Compton, Barry County emergency management director. "They just say no."

Compton said he was "very surprised" at the decision. In past storm events, if a county qualified for individual assistance, which was expected for Stone County, then the contiguous counties automatically qualified. Now neighboring counties will receive close scrutiny for consideration.

The threshold for public assistance as a result of damage to infrastructure must reach $6.5 million in damage. Compton said Taney, Stone and Dallas counties were each within $120,000 of damage at that amount.

Damage in Barry County was limited to a one-mile path on the north edge of Cassville. The storm touched down on one home on the west side of Highway 37, then crossed Business Highway 37, moving into a subdivision. The F2 tornado destroyed six homes, inflicted major damage on two homes and minor damage on two others. Two businesses received damage and a semi truck was toppled. Four people were hurt and one was killed.

Compton said the strike involved little public infrastructure, so individual assistance had been sought.

"Even though there wasn't a whole lot of damage, what there was was severe," Compton said. "In the other counties, the great majority of homes were destroyed."

In a situation with similar damage and one fatality, the tornado strike on the north side of Purdy on May 9, 2008, failed to receive a disaster declaration. Compton said the final appeal of FEMA's decision in that case took six months.

"I would expect we will hear something on our appeal in the next 30 to 40 days," Compton said.

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