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Tornadoes and FEMA: Virginia Fights On

By Marshall Kirby | May 9, 2011 | No Comments

Following the horrible tornadoes that ravaged large portions of the country, counties and local communities in the Commonwealth are struggling. The series of heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes caused severe damage statewide.  10 Virginians lost their lives as a result of the storm systems, and survivors must continue to pick up the pieces, rebuild, and move on with their lives. The economic costs are also still being calculated, but are estimated to be at least in the several hundred million dollar range as several hundred homes and businesses were destroyed and thousands more damaged.

Unfortunately, residents and those directly affected by the storms must do so without the assistance of FEMA. On Saturday May 7th, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request made by Governor McDonnell for federal funds and expertise.  In their letter, officials from the agency indicated that, while the results of the tornadoes have been devastating, the Commonwealth is adequately equipped to handle the response, recovery, and mitigation aspects of the crisis.  This will affect several counties in Southwest Virginia, including Washington, Halifax, and Pulaski. While local officials have publicly expressed their disappointment, they have also shown resiliency despite the announcement.

Displaying this resiliency, Poky Harris, the Washington County Director of Emergency Management, was quoted as saying: “Washington County officials are committed to leaving no stone unturned in seeking assistance for the citizens affected by the tornado.”  Additionally, local and state officials have not ruled out the possibility of appealing FEMA’s ruling, although such an appeal would take additional manpower to collect and take inventory of the ongoing situation. It would also take several weeks for an issuance.  In the meantime, local residents and small business owners are still able to take out subsidized and low interest loans from the Small Business Administration to assist with the rebuilding process.

Despite the unfortunate FEMA decision and the terrible damage, Virginians are continuing to display perseverance, compassion, and outreach.  Feeding America’s Southwest Virginia chapter has been one of the many local organizations which has really stepped up and done an inspiring job feeding those who are severely affected.

The decision of FEMA to reject the request of aid for Southwest Virginia serves as a reminder that we need to continue to come together as a state and support those in need.  Displaying unity and helping out our neighbors and fellow residents are very important not just now, but always.  It’s also a very simple yet important part of making Virginia the Commonwealth we know it can be.

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