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FEMA Finds Additional Tornado Damage, Considers Aid Request

One month after a tornado ripped through Washington, local officials are still making their case for why they need federal assistance.

  • crooked house

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    Photo: Simon Thompson

    The tornado ripped several houses off their foundations.

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    Photo: Simon Thompson

    A house wrecked by last month's toranado leans against a tree in Washington, Ind.

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    Photo: Simon Thompson

    Several houses in Washington, appear the same as they did the day after the storms.

  • Condemnation notice on house

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    Photo: Simon Thompson

    Several houses damaged by the storms have been condemned.

  • House with new roof

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    Photo: Simon Thompson

    Washington residents are trying to rebuild what they can.

Federal officials are finding more damage from last month’s tornadoes than initially thought. That could give Indiana a better case for receiving federal aid.

Indiana’s first appeal for federal assistance was denied last week, so local, state and federal officials began reassessing the damage today.

In Washington, Indiana, several homes still have no walls or are tilted sideways—remnants of the tornadoes that swept through on November 17.

Federal Emergency Management Agency individual assistance program specialist James Taylor is part of a team assessing the damage and says surveys done immediately after a tornado often don’t account for the full extent of the damage.

“It changes, initial passes from locals might have it at one level and when we see the damage level actually might be much more than that – then we mark it accordingly,” Taylor says.

This is the third time tornado damage has been assessed in Washington, the last time was just days after the tornado hit.

Taylor says his team has found several instances where damage was more extensive than initially thought. They found houses had been moved off their foundations and plumbing was no longer properly aligned.

Mayor Joe Wellman says since the storm, most of the debris has been cleared and the city has been covering most of the costs.

“Will the city of Washington go broke if we don’t get federal assistance? No, but obviously we’ll have to take that money out of our reserves,” he says.

Wellman says that means the city could have to raises taxes or fees to pay for the expenses.

FEMA will likely decide within the next few weeks whether to declare parts of Indiana natural disaster areas making them eligible for grants and low-interest loans.

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