President declares disaster for Oklahoma

5/21/2013, 12:36 p.m.
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin in the Oval Office, May 20. The president spoke with Gov. Fallin to express his concern for those who have been affected by the severe weather. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the state of Oklahoma to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and tornadoes beginning May 18 and continuing.

The president's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie counties.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie counties. Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Sandy Coachman has been named as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Coachman said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.

The American Red Cross has opened shelters and is providing aid to those affected by the tornadoes. The aid organization has been mobilizing additional disaster response teams, supplies and equipment that arrived on-scene, May 21.

"This has been a major disaster, and the Red Cross will be there for the people of Oklahoma," said Jonathan McNamara, the Eastern Virginia Region spokesperson. "You can help Red Cross Disaster Relief provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected with a financial donation."

To donate visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or TEXT the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation billed to your cellphone account. Contributions may also be sent to the local Red Cross chapter, 420 East Cary Street

Richmond, Virginia 23219 or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

The organization is unable to accept donations of food, clothing, household goods, especially since it has not been asked to deploy any disaster volunteers from the Richmond area.