RAPID CITY, S.D. -- Assistance programs for disaster recovery in southwestern South Dakota continue to expand.
"We have had staff people here in the state since June 5, just hours after the tornado," said Federal Coordinating Officer Pete Bakersky of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "And we will stay here as long as it takes, to help people recover from what has happened and be able to move on with their lives."
Bakersky announced the following.
- Residents and business owners from Pine Ridge Reservation and Shannon County who were affected by the tornado, severe storms and flooding that began June 4 should register for assistance by calling 1-800-462-9029 (the speech- and hearing-impaired can call the TTY number 1-800-462-7585). A total of 165 people had already registered for assistance by the close of business on Friday, June 11. Operators are available from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
- Help available includes disaster housing assistance, low-interest loans for repair and replacement of real or personal property, and grants to help meet serious disaster-related needs and expenses not covered by other assistance programs. Disaster unemployment benefits are also available for those who are unemployed as a result of the disaster, including those who do not otherwise qualify for unemployment compensation, such as farm workers and self-employed individuals. Assistance to help with the rebuilding of infrastructure will also be available to government agencies and some nonprofit organizations.
- Inspectors for FEMA's disaster housing program are currently in the field documenting home damages for individuals who have registered for assistance.
- The best way to prevent death and injury from a tornado is to build a "safe room" in one's home. A safe room is a small reinforced room, preferably below ground level, that can withstand the extreme high winds and flying debris caused by tornadoes. A free 25-page booklet about how to build a safe room is available by calling 1-800-480-2520.
"We are working closely with the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the various volunteer agencies to help people get the assistance they need," said Bakersky. "Although this assistance will not make the flood victims whole, it can help get people back on their feet."
The disaster began with a tornado that struck the area on Friday, June 4. Governor William J. Janklow requested a federal disaster declaration on Saturday, June 5, and FEMA representatives were on the ground soon after that request to do a damage assessment. The assessment was forwarded to President William Clinton, who declared the reservation and the county a disaster on Wednesday, June 9.