FEMA starts damage assessment in local communities


Kendall Downing

MASSAC COUNTY, Ill. - Door to door. FEMA and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency started their preliminary damage assessments in Pope and Massac Counties on Thursday morning.

They're surveying structures but also checking on people, seeing if they had insurance on their homes and where they're living now.

Once the teams finish all the data goes back to the state of Illinois. The destruction in our local area is one small part of it. There are four teams looking at damage in 15 Illinois counties.

FEMA hopes to have the assessment results back to the state by this weekend. State officials will then decide if there's enough damage to file a formal request for a disaster declaration.

Cleanup work continues but Thursday a new set of eyes got to see the destruction.

"Assessment is really the key word," said Don Jacks with FEMA.

Jacks said they're noting more than just damaged property. A federal disaster declaration can open the door to a wave of resources. The agency must gauge that need now.

"If there is indeed a federal disaster declaration, that triggers a lot of services for people, disaster unemployment assistance, disaster legal services, plus grants from FEMA, crisis counseling, loans from the small business administration," said Jacks.

Storm victim Jay Dyer said it's hard to clean up.

"From insurance, to FEMA, to whomever, just want to be able to have a home to stay in," said Dyer.

He has insurance but isn't sure how much it will cover.

Though Teresa Klaffer's home is still standing, there's no way she can live in it again.

"It felt like rollers, and it just easily rolled," said Klaffer.

Klaffer said her policy will pay for a new house, but she wants a disaster declaration for others nearby who weren't protected.

"We do hope that there is help. There are so many in this community that do not have insurance," said Klaffer.

If an area gets a disaster declaration, FEMA will set up a command post. The president can also designate aid for public assistance and individual assistance.

Public aid goes to local governments to cover costs of cleanup, while individual aid is available to households.

FEMA said homeowners must settle claims with their private insurance, if they have it, before they can get any type of federal assistance.

Though FEMA denied public aid after the Harrisburg tornado, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn asked the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest loans for affected residents and businesses. The agency honored that request.