Entries in Tornado (6)


Obama: Country Will Be ‘Shelter from the Storm’ for Oklahoma

Oklahoma Cty Sheriff(MOORE, Okla.) -- Standing in front of the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was destroyed by last week’s tornado, President Obama offered words of support to the community of Moore, Okla., saying that people across this country will serve as a “shelter from the storm” for all those impacted by the deadly tornadoes.

 “God has a plan, and it’s important to know that we also recognize we’re instruments of His will, and we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore,” the president said in Moore, Okla. at the site where seven students were killed by the tornado on Monday. “When we say we’ve got your backs, I promise you, we keep our word.”

President Obama expressed admiration for the Oklahoma community as it weathered the storm that killed 24 people and looked forward to recovery.

 “People here pride themselves on the Oklahoma standard. What Governor Fallin’s called being able to work through disasters like this and come out stronger on the other side,” he said. “From the forecasters who issued the warnings to the first responders who dug through the rubble to the teachers who shielded with their own bodies their own students, Oklahomans have inspired us with their love and their courage and their fellowship.”

 “This is a strong community with strong character. There’s no doubt they’re going to bounce back, but they need help just like any of us would need help if we saw the kind of devastation that we’re seeing here,” he said. “We know Moore is going to come back stronger from this tragedy.”

The president urged Americans to donate to the American Red Cross and assured the people of Moore that resources will be made available to aid in the community’s recovery efforts. But as the community looks ahead to rebuilding, the president also issued a reminder that the funding of training programs for first responders is critical to ensuring lives continue to be saved in future disasters.

“Training, education, both for citizenry but also for first responders is absolutely critical, and we’ve got to make sure that those resources remain in place,” he said. “We can’t shortchange that kind of ongoing disaster response. We can’t just wait till the disaster happens.  That’s how in part we’re able to save a lot of lives.”

With children’s toys still strewn amid the rubble, the president walked through a neighborhood impacted by the storm before touring the site of Plaza Elementary School.

The president was accompanied by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis on his walk through the devastated sites.

Following his brief statement at the elementary school, the president met with first responders and families of the children whose lives were lost at Plaza Towers Elementary School due to the tornado at a local fire station.

Prior to the president’s arrival in Oklahoma Sunday, Fallin expressed concern that “red tape” could hinder recovery efforts in the wake of the tornado.

“We first of all appreciate the president coming to Oklahoma to see the devastation. It is huge here. And a lot of need here. But basically, what I need is the ability to get through red tape, the ability to get the FEMA funds in here quickly and to get the services that our citizens need to help them recover through this terrible disaster,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

Earlier this week, the president signed a major disaster declaration for Oklahoma and approved additional assistance for the state, including a Debris Removal Pilot Program, which increased the federal share of costs for debris removal to 85 percent for the first 30 days, a White House official said Sunday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Coburn: Tornado Recovery Not Federal Government’s Responsibility

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation Sunday, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn said he was standing by his position that recovery efforts for major disasters should be handled at the local level and not by the federal government.

“We've kind of transferred the responsibility for storms and damage to the federal government instead of to the state government,” Coburn said. Coburn has come under fire in the past over for his stance that any federal disaster aid must be offset by other budget cuts, a position that he is maintaining even after the EF5 tornado struck Moore, Okla. last week.

“We’ve created kind of a predicate that you don’t have to be responsible for what goes on in your state,” he continued.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, also appearing on Face The Nation, disagrees.

“When the hand of God strikes in a very serious way, the localities can't handle it by themselves,” he said, “Americans band together and say, 'we're going to help the afflicted area.'”

Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, also stressed the need for federal aid.

“This is a massive debris field,” she said. “It's not just a couple of blocks. It's miles. It's 17 miles long. Almost a mile and a half wide.”

Fallin told Face the Nation her first request of the president, who is visiting Moore Sunday afternoon, will be to ensure that money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency keeps flowing to those in need.

“We know at different times in the past, money hasn't always come as quickly as it should, so I'm hoping that FEMA will be very prompt to get the relief here,” Fallin said.

The governor also said that the building of more "safe rooms" for use during tornadoes is a conversation that school officials need to have. The tornado in Moore killed 24 people, including several children when it flattened an elementary school. Fallin said many schools across the state were already looking into building safe rooms.

“Many of them have rebuilt rooms of some sort as a safe room in their school, and we're certainly going to encourage that, but I do think it's important to have a very vigorous discussion as to what can we do.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Has Declared Record-Breaking 89 Disasters in 2011

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- From Hurricane Irene, which soaked the entire East Coast in August, to the Midwest tornadoes, which wrought havoc from Wisconsin to Texas, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

And as America’s hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires set records this year, so too has President Obama in his response to them.

During the first 10 months of this year President Obama declared 89 major disasters, more than the record 81 declarations that he made in all of 2010.

And Obama has declared more disasters -- 229 -- in the first three years of his presidency than almost any other president signed in their full four-year terms. Only President George W. Bush declared more, having signed 238 disaster declarations in his second term, from 2005 to 2009.

But while the sheer number of bad weather events played a big role in the uptick in presidential disaster declarations, Obama’s record-setting year may have something to do with politics as well.

“There’s no question about it that the increase in the number of disaster declarations is outstripping what we would expect to see, given what we observe in terms of weather,” said Robert Hartwig, the president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “There’s a lot of political pressure on the president and Congress to show they are responsive to these sorts of disasters that occur.”

While the president aimed to authorize swift and sweeping aid to disaster victims, Congress was entrenched in partisan battles over how to foot the bill. When Republicans demanded that additional appropriations for a cash-strapped Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be offset by spending cuts, the government was almost shut down over disaster relief funding.

Such budget showdowns have become commonplace in Congress, but a similarly slow response to natural disasters by the president has been met with far more pointed and politically damaging criticism.  Former President Bush learned that the hard way after what was seen as a botched initial response to Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

Mark Merritt, who served as deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton Administration, said Obama’s record-breaking number of declarations has less to do with politics and more to do with demographics.
People are moving to high-risk areas like beaches and flood plains, more bad weather events are occurring and the country’s infrastructure is “crumbling,” he claimed.

Politics aside, Obama’s higher-than-ever number of disaster declarations may also have a lot to do with the broad scale of this year’s disasters, which led to more declarations of catastrophes because each state affected by the disaster gets its own declaration.

For example, Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, cost upwards of $40 billion in damage, but resulted in only one disaster declaration because the damage was almost entirely confined to one state.

Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, pummeled much of the East Coast this summer, causing the president to make 9 disaster declarations, one for each state affected. Although there were 8 more declarations for Irene than for Andrew, the Irene caused about $7 billion in damage, a fraction of the damage caused by Andrew (up to $42 billion in today’s dollars).

Each presidential disaster declaration makes the federal government -- specifically FEMA -- responsible for at least 75 percent of the recovery costs, relieving cash-strapped state and local governments of the billions in damages caused by this year’s hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama Visits Tornado-Ravaged Joplin, Missouri

ABC News

(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- President Obama, on Sunday, told the shattered survivors of the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, that their tragedy is "a national tragedy," and pledged long-term support from the federal government.

"This is not just your tragedy, but a national one, and there will be a national response," he said. "We're going to be here long after the cameras leave.

"This can happen to anybody," the president said. "Here but for the grace of God go I."

Obama was greeted at the airport by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who gave him a first-hand tour of the incredible destruction he had seen from Air Force One as he flew in to Joplin.

The president and governor surveyed the damage, both of them shaking hands and exchanging greetings and words of comfort and encouragement with people they met along the way.

The president is making the trip after returning Saturday from a six-day tour of Europe, where he focused on building U.S. relations with world leaders.

In Joplin, where hundreds of people were injured and at least 44 more are still missing, a week after the monster tornado tore through the city of 50,000, Obama is scheduled to meet with survivors and the families of those who were killed.

He also spoke at a Joplin Community Memorial Service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University on Sunday.

At least 139 people have died from injuries caused by the tornado.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Join Gov. Nixon at Joplin Memorial Service

Edwin Wilson, OETA(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- President Barack Obama will attend a memorial service for the victims of last weekend's devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo., on Sunday.

Obama finished his six-day trip to Europe on Saturday in Warsaw, Poland. The service will take place at the Taylor Performing Arts Center on the Missouri Southern State University campus at 2 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has made Sunday a day of prayer and remembrance. Both Nixon and Obama are expected to speak at the ceremony.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Offers Support to Tornado Victims, Heads to Alabama Friday

Pool Photo(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said the federal government will do everything it can to help those affected by devastating tornadoes that ravaged parts of the South Wednesday, killing nearly 300 and leading to a state of emergency in Alabama.

Speaking at the White House, the president noted the loss of life and expressed condolences.

"The loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama. In a matter of hours these deadly tornadoes, some of the worst that we've seen in decades, took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, even entire communities. Others are injured and some are still missing," he said, describing the damage as "nothing short of catastrophic."

"We can't control when or where a catastrophic storm will strike. But we can control how we respond to it. And I want every American who is affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover and stand with you as you rebuild," he said.

The president said he will travel to Alabama to view storm damage on Friday and offer condolences to some of the victims. Later in the day he will travel to Florida to see the launch of the final NASA shuttle mission.

In addition, President Obama has spoken with governors in Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. He said he told the state leaders that the federal government will help in "any possible way," particularly in Alabama.

He also dispatched FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to Alabama to oversee federal assistance to the storm recovery personally.

The president made the remarks about the tornadoes at an event that was originally scheduled to announce a reshuffling of the leadership of the nation's national security apparatus.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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