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Tornado recovery update 5/19/14: What victims and volunteers need to know

Posted: May 19, 2014 - 12:55pm
The early "volunteer rush" is over and the job of cleaning up tornado damage isn't. Volunteer organizers are asking for more people to help. FILE PHOTO by ERIC WHITE
The early "volunteer rush" is over and the job of cleaning up tornado damage isn't. Volunteer organizers are asking for more people to help. FILE PHOTO by ERIC WHITE

Here's what tornado victims and volunteers need to know today:

FEMA assistance:

FEMA has accepted 988 applications for assistance and has awarded $1,794,739 in grants in Faulkner County alone. In all affected counties the total is a little over $2 million. This includes money to help victims rebuild and repair and money for temporary housing.

FEMA spokesman Peter Lembessis said anyone who gets a denial letter needs to treat that as a notice to go to one of two local FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers and ask why their application was denied.

Often it’s as simple as a miswritten or misread number or an applicant phone contact number that’s out of service or another problem that doesn’t have anything to do with an applicant’s actual eligibility for help, and can easily be cleared up.

 

Disaster Recovery Centers are at:

• 1122 Main Street in Vilonia, and

• At 600 Highway 365 in Mayflower. 

These Disaster Recovery Centers are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

To apply for or ask about assistance, call 1-800-621-3362.

Mitigation:

FEMA also offers advice and information on building a home that is better able to withstand storms. FEMA calls this mitigation, and is something that can be done immediately “before the next disaster” to “reduce human and consequences later,” according to FEMA’s website.

Mitigation personnel are at the Disaster Recovery Centers, and at the Home Depot and Lowe’s hardware stores in Conway, operating there from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Volunteering:

Team Rubicon has sent out about 100 volunteers today, but today was an especially good turnout. The team’s information officer, Wes Craiglow, said that the average number has been more like 50 over the past few days.

There’s still plenty of work out there, and more volunteers are needed. The team has received 133 work orders from people needing volunteers to help clean up debris, and has completed 56 of them. These are moving numbers, Craiglow said, but it means that help has been requested and is still needed for at least 77 properties.

“Team Rubicon is still busy countywide on any given day, and we will be here through the end of the month," Craiglow said. 

This does not include the volunteer cleanup efforts that are going on outside of the Team Rubicon organizational system, “which is great and which we appreciate,” Craiglow said.

Team Rubicon has surveyed the damage areas in Mayflower and Vilonia — and the wide, long path between these towns where scores of homes were damaged or destroyed. After the survey was done, the areas were mapped and a plan put in place to assign volunteers to where they are most needed. 

The team is seeing volunteers returning time and time again, Craiglow said, and this is developing a base of experienced workers within the volunteer communities that is boosting the effort. But more are needed.

On May 2, the first Saturday after the tornado, expectations that volunteers would show up by the thousands were fulfilled. Team Rubicon asked then that volunteers who wanted to avoid spending their time waiting in lines would have plenty of work after the initial volunteer rush.

The rush is over. The cleanup effort was expected to take weeks, and it has taken weeks. Now is the time for volunteers who have been waiting.

To ask about volunteering, or to request volunteer help, call (469) 301-1865.

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