Nappanee Mayor: "Not going to roll over and take no for an answer" from FEMA

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

Leaders in Nappanee had been waiting for a disaster declaration for weeks, and now they've been notified: it isn't coming.

Governor Daniels recommended Nappanee be declared a disaster area by federal officials, which would allow victims of last month's tornado to receive assistance from FEMA.

The October tornado destroyed 51 homes, and left hundreds of other homes and businesses damaged.

Local officials say they were notified Wednesday afternoon, that was not enough damage to get the national declaration.

For weeks, leaders and response workers who are familiar with the workings of FEMA had been very confident they'd receive the declaration, and in turn, homeowners and businesses could get financial assistance.

Local leaders say the even though a large percentage of the town was affected by the storm, the small size of the town may be why they couldn't meet FEMA's thresholds for assistance.

There's no question the devastation is there.

But local leaders say the situation apparently wasn't desperate enough for a disaster declaration.

“Fortunately our people our well-insured, although that may have hurt us in the process. But that's not something to be ashamed of, that's something to be proud of. That people take care of their own,” said Mayor Larry Thompson

But, that doesn't mean many of the storm victims weren't also counting on the help federal funds could offer.

“We really do need the federal assistance to make everything work the way we'd like it to. But if we don't get it, we're not going to sit around and whine and cry about it, we're going to put it back together, we're going to raise the funds, and we're going to get these people taken care of,” Thompson said.

Thompson also says he, along with other local and state leaders, don't plan to just take no for an answer.

“We'll go through the appeal process, delays at this point are not a good thing. we have collected a lot of money locally, and we're being very careful about how that money is being spent,” Thompson said.

Thompson says case workers plan to interview victims in the coming weeks to determine where those donations are needed the most, now that they know they can't count on money from FEMA.

But despite the disappointment, they have to remember things could have been much worse.

“Here we are on Thanksgiving, and it's a day to give thanks; and you know, we're not visiting hospitals, and we're not visiting cemeteries today,” Thompson said, alluding to the fact that no one in the area was killed or seriously injured in the storm.

Another person who has been very vocal since word of FEMA’s rejection came through is U.S. Representative Mark Souder.

He says he's outraged that if a small part of a California city is damaged, it's covered, but if "small town America gets hammered," it's ignored.

Now, the town is basically just left with the money in the tornado recovery fund. The mayor says the donations are now up to over $200,000, which will go a long way for the people of Nappanee, but won't cover everything, by any means.

Thompson says they are very thankful for all the donations, and they continue to come in day by day.

For our continuing coverage of this story, see the links below.

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