published Monday, May 9th, 2011

FEMA ready with cash

Following a tour of tornado-damaged areas in Ringgold, U.S. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano urged residents who suffered storm damage to register with FEMA. Napolitano spoke Sunday afternoon to reporters gathered at the Adult Learning Center at Benton Place. U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, left, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, right, and GEMA Director Charley English, center, were among those attending the press conference. 
Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Following a tour of tornado-damaged areas in Ringgold, U.S. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano urged residents who suffered storm damage to register with FEMA. Napolitano spoke Sunday afternoon to reporters gathered at the Adult Learning Center at Benton Place. U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, left, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, right, and GEMA Director Charley English, center, were among those attending the press conference. Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

RINGGOLD, Ga. — After a Sunday morning spent driving around the destroyed homes and businesses of Ringgold, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was struck by one thing above all else — the community’s resilience.

“This is a tough one, but this is a tough town and a tough area. People are going to come back,” she said at a media briefing. “Recovery is alive and well here, in Ringgold and in the whole surrounding area.”

Napolitano, who is scheduled to speak at the commencement of Emory University in Atlanta today, met with volunteers and victims of April’s tornadoes while touring downtown Ringgold and surrounding areas.

More than 80 people in the tri-state region died as a result of the storm, including eight people in Ringgold.

The Cabinet member heads the department under which the Federal Emergency Management Agency operates, and she stressed the organization isn’t leaving the area until everything is back in order.

“Our teams were in the field within hours, we are still in the field, we will remain in the field until we are confident that these communities are well on their way to recovery,” she said.

Only when FEMA officials believe they’ve registered everyone qualified for assistance, directed funds to the neediest pockets and gotten the OK from their Georgia office will they pull out, she said, but that’s not likely to happen for a long time.

“It’s one of those things, you know it when you feel it,” she said.

Right now, many Ringgold residents said they feel happy just to have some semblance of normalcy back in their lives. Several churches held services Sunday morning, and though its steeple was blown off, First Baptist Church hosted Napolitano, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, both R-Ga., for a short, casual breakfast.

“Even with the other stuff going on in the world, it’s nice to know they’re still thinking of our little town,” said Brant Olivarri, a minister at the church. “I know it meant a lot to our people.”

Olivarri’s church still couldn’t hold Sunday school — it is housing volunteers from far away in the rooms where classes are held.

And those volunteers have plenty to do. Wisps of home insulation are still caught in the grass of Ringgold neighborhoods. Most of the roads are cleared, but piles of rubble block sidewalks in front of the foundations of former homes.

Housing and hope

Touring Ringgold, Napolitano certainly saw some of the area’s worst damage, but she encouraged even those less affected to apply for FEMA aid. The more people who register, the longer FEMA can stay in affected areas and the more money will be distributed, she said.

As of Saturday night, 520 Catoosa County residents were registered and about $337,000 of federal money was headed to the area. That included $328,000 headed toward housing assistance, Napolitano said.

“The number one thing for many individuals is finding them housing,” she said. “If we can repair the damage now before the next set of rains, we may be able to get them back in their original home rather than spending months and months and months in a rental property.”

Ringgold native PJ Lucas’ mother had family to depend on when the tornado shattered her home into sticks.

Lucas, her husband and stepchildren picked through the remains Sunday, looking for two boxes of winter clothes.

Little remains of the house. The obliterated front walls, roof and living room have been cleared away. A doorless closet still stands with a green mattress lying in front of it, right at the edge of the destruction.

When the storm hit, Lucas’ two children were visiting their grandma, playing the card game Phase 10 in the living room. The kids got scared of the storm. They had to persuade their grandmother, but eventually they all piled into the closet and covered themselves with the mattress. Their persuasion likely saved all their lives, Lucas said.

“They’re OK, but it hasn’t rained and it hasn’t stormed since then,” Lucas said.

And she expects the two are a bit traumatized. When the family stayed at a different house right after the storm, her son holed up in the closet and refused to come out.

As long as the skies are sunny, Lucas doesn’t worry too much. Her family is physically fine, and they’re prepared for the long task of sifting through the remains of her mother’s house and eventually rebuilding it.

So far, she’s had plenty of help from volunteers and even strangers walking down the street.

And that spirit, the resilience of the town, is what struck Napolitano.

“The sense of community involvement and strength here is very noticeable, and what we need to do — and what we will do and are committed to do — is to provide all the support we can,” she said. “But neighbor to neighbor, local communities, that’s where it starts.”

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Ramblinwreck said...

If you get a FEMA check you should call up your grandchildren and apologize. They're the ones who will be paying the money back if the country lasts that long.

May 9, 2011 at 7:29 a.m.
chet123 said...

The anti government people should call rush limbaugh....should be glad to get anything....that tax payer money from all 50 states...disaster can hit anywhere floods,earthquakes,bush/forest fires,avalanche,lightin,hurricane,tornado..you dont hear hate talk during a disaster....

May 9, 2011 at 8:22 a.m.
Julian1 said...

Where are all the conservatives who usually scream about the federal government getting involved in state and local affairs? Conservatives should tell the government that Tennessee does not need its money and this redistribution of wealth. Where are all the accusations of socialism now? I thought all you states' rights people hated the federal government.

May 9, 2011 at 9:12 a.m.

Reading the comments above from Julian, Chet, and Ramblin... it's clear the left-thinking public is a clueless group of folks.

May 9, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
chet123 said...

Its clear that the Republicans are "fork tongue" and "double talk" LOL LOL

May 9, 2011 at 10:05 a.m.
chet123 said...

Booketturnerghost...i've told you over and over and over...if you dig a ditch for your neighbor..you better dig two one for him and one for yourself....LOL LOL the cowboy use to say...they may get me in the morning while you laugh tee hee tee hee but in the evening they will return looking for you.. you are being used by people(rich and greedy)who advantage is having the masses divided....because with unity american is strong and Rich and greedy will be exposed.... Their tactic is to divide and conquer... NOW WHO IS THE REAL CLUELESS lol lol lol

May 9, 2011 at 10:12 a.m.
Julian1 said...

What's clueless about pointing out the right's evident hypocrisy and inconsistency? Hate the government and the redistribution of wealth until you need it. Kinda like Ayn "welfare cheat" Rand who denounced all who took social security and medicare while relying on these programs secretly when she could not pay her medical bills. Ha ha ha.

May 9, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
chet123 said...

give them hell JULIAN lol lol

May 9, 2011 at 11:01 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

Look at all those teabagging, libertarian, republican double talkers taking their socialized FEMA handouts.

May 9, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.
dlapham said...

You are trying to point out hypocrisy that doesn't exist.

One: there is a difference between short term shelter and food during a disaster, and long term welfare which breeds dependence. Most right wingers do not appose limited help by FEMA.

Two: Most right wingers hate to take a handout, and you will find that many are not taking one now even though they lost a lot in the storm. I live here and know from one on one experience.

Three: You are making a classic straw man argument. You are assuming that people are taking FEMA money (and are also right wing), when you actually have no idea. You are assuming that republicans and the like appose FEMA. While some likely do appose FEMA, this is an invalid blanket argument which does not apply to the majority.

May 9, 2011 at 11:58 a.m.
Momus said...

dlapham wrote: "this is an invalid blanket argument which does not apply to the majority."

As you'll soon find out, this forum is all about making blanket statements with no supporting data.

May 9, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.

For the clueless... FEMA is not handing out money to people of certain demographics. The assistance is going to those who have suffered great property loss in a critical time of need. Yes, even the wealthy will receive federal short-term assistance, alongside the poor.

FEMA was about a week too late in arriving. But our churches and local cummunity groups were there immediately. No one cried out for Obama and the government teat.

So now, get back to your class warfare trash talking...

May 9, 2011 at 12:48 p.m.
chet123 said...

bookieturnersghost...to you pseudo know it all...good try bookie...demographic LOL LOL..who say anything about targeting on demographic basis(by the way i read between the lines..but it wont work this country have too many good people who is not like you my friend [race card])...this is class warfare and i lived in segregation time but it was not as bad for working people as "post ronald reagan" time(classism) ...classism is more evil than racism ..you allow yourself to be used by people like the KOCH brothers(oil billionares)...their effort with other rich and greedy is to privatize everything(anti-government) in this country...everything become profit driven...pure capitalism does not = democracy....these people mask as fiscal conservative(rich and greedy)... however you sound like a social conservative who have gartered your vote with the rich and greedy...they are manipulated you in thinking GOVERNMENT(is the people fool) is evil...so i'm saying to you and anyone who think as you.. OPT OUT the system..you dont have to pay taxes, just OPT OUT,you Wont be missed....be like AMISH people..dont pay tax..become independent....but you will not do it...you enjoy the benefits and assurance you are protected by local law and American military(against foreign invaders).I would love to see you in a buggy pulled by a couple of OX. ..bookieturnsghoust,you are just another pundit who used by rich and greedy people and dont have sense enough to know it.SHAME ON YOU MAN!!!SHAME ON YOU!

May 9, 2011 at 1:33 p.m.
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