Crawford declared disaster area
President George W. Bush declared Crawford County a major disaster area last Thursday, setting the stage for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide funding and assistance with the Marengo tornado recovery effort.
FEMA officials quickly established a disaster recovery center at Marengo Elementary School, which will allow victims to seek help and get information through various stages of the recovery process.
FEMA personnel were already in Crawford County early last week, completing damage assessments of homes and businesses with the help of state and local officials. Gov. Joe Kernan officially asked Bush for the disaster designation after Kernan visited Marengo the day after the storm.
The disaster recovery center is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily and is prepared to help residents with any questions they might have about assistance programs they now may be eligible for, including: rental payments for temporary housing, grants for home repairs, grants for replacement of personal property, unemployment payments, low-interest loans and small business loans, among other things.
Assistance with food, clothing, shelter or other immediate needs is also being provided by the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Any resident who suffered property loss or damage as a result of the May 30 tornado or flooding associated with the storm is also urged to call FEMA’s toll-free line at 1-800-621-FEMA. The processing of disaster benefits depends on the victim registering by this number. A registration number will be provided during the call, and this number must be learned because it will be used again throughout the recovery and assistance process.
Residents who have lost phone service are encouraged to go to Marengo Elementary School, where direct lines to FEMA will be provided.
Cleo Howell, a public information officer for FEMA, said as of Sunday, 42 Crawford County residents had registered with FEMA. Howell stressed the importance of registering over the telephone.
‘To access any of these things, people have to call the 1-800 number,’ he said.
Howell estimated FEMA will be in town two to four weeks, helping people pick up the pieces and get their lives back together.
FEMA Deputy Director Phil Roberts arrived in Marengo by helicopter Monday with State Emergency Management Agency officials and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to attend a meeting with state and local officials concerning debris removal and damage mitigation.
The Indiana National Guard, which deployed more than 100 troops to Marengo last Tuesday to assist with tree and debris removal, left town Saturday morning. S.R. 66, which had been closed from S.R. 64 to the railroad tracks south of town, was opened for normal traffic that day.
Marengo-Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Phil Jones said he expected debris removal to be complete by the end of the day. Volunteers from numerous churches and community organizations remained in town to help with the cleanup.
Electricity was restored to most of the town by last Tuesday night. Phone service was also reestablished soon after, although some residents occasionally have been without phone service because Verizon linemen are rebuilding portions of the system and installing all new fiber optic lines. That process is expected to take two to three weeks.
Crawford County Commissioner Larry Bye said Indiana Lions Club District 25 volunteered to donate $10,000 to help tornado victims with food replacement because of power outages during the storm. Bye said residents have two weeks to apply for the program. The money will be divided equally among those who register; however, any money that is not used must be refunded. Those who qualify for the food benefit will be issued a credit card that will be redeemable at the JayC Food Store at English, Bye said.
‘If their electric was off, they’re covered,’ Bye said.
No buildings in Marengo had officially been condemned as of Monday afternoon. Since Crawford County lacks a building inspector, it is possible determinations on condemnation will have to be made by a contractor hired by the county.
The Crawford County Council and Board of Commissioners met in joint session last week and approved the following appropriations for disaster relief:
‘ $13,591 from the county highway escrow fund to hire back three highway department employees to help with the additional workload;
‘ $17,586 from the county’s emergency ambulance escrow fund to purchase additional ambulance supplies, and
‘ $15,000 from the riverboat contingency fund to Marengo to use for relief.
Any residents who may have been out of town during the storm and have questions about recovery assistance should visit the disaster recovery center at Marengo Elementary School or the Marengo Town Hall. Telephones will be available at both locations.
Donations are being coordinated by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Community Foundation of Crawford County.
To offer assistance with rental property, contact the Red Cross at 951-2288. To make a monetary donation, contact the Community Foundation at 633-2077. The county has established a Marengo Tornado Victims Fund. To donate, contact the Crawford County Auditor’s Office at 1-812-338-2601.