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Flooded Lawton neighborhoods declared disaster area

Assessors from FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations spent the day checking on the damage from recent flooding. (Source KSWO) Assessors from FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations spent the day checking on the damage from recent flooding. (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Comanche County Commissioners declared parts of Lawton as a disaster area Monday as a result of the damage from last week's flooding.

They made the decision at their weekly meeting. It's the first step toward trying to get federal help in covering the repair costs.

Representatives from FEMA, the Red Cross and other organizations spent the day viewing the damage in several neighborhoods in Lawton, largely on the east side, but also in some central portions of the city. 

Assessors took notice of the piles of debris outside of homes all across the Heritage Hills neighborhood. They were also checking the homes' interiors to see just how high the water was.

The Oklahoma Emergency Management Department and organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross have been in constant communication with Comanche County Emergency Management since the flooding took place.

"Us at the local level have been telling them we have this much damage based off of the information that the public gives us. But this is a way for them to go out and verify, make sure there's not hyperbole or sketchiness going on, and then they can confirm with their people in the state and federal government that yes, these people have this much damage," said Ashley Hensch, the public information officer for Comanche County Emergency Management.

Hensch says the disaster declaration is the first step toward getting federal aid.

"Now it's going on to the state, and when the state looks at that they'll look at the other counties around us who got damage. They'll look at the situation and they'll look at what their people in the field found out. They're going to determine if we are a disaster or not, then it will move up to the federal government and same process there," Hensch explained.

Hensch says getting that financial aid could be huge for residents in the area.

"They're not in the floodplain, but their houses got flooded anyway. A lot of them didn't have flood insurance, so they're having to deal with the damage and the price of the damage on their own without the help of their insurance company. They may have home owners’ insurance, but that doesn't cover flooding," she said

If there is anyone who has flood damage that has not reported it to emergency management, Hensch says it is not too late.

"If we can come to them and say these are the homes that are affected and this is how much damage it has done…it helps speed up the process so much more. Because we were able to bring them directly to the neighborhoods that had damage so they could see that there's a need because of all of the calls we've been getting. So, if we know where the damage is, it helps speed up the process for getting the help in," Hensch said.

Hensch says that process of getting money in will not be immediate. She says it will likely still be a few weeks before any federal aid begins arriving, if it does at all.

If you have damage to report to Comanche County Emergency Management, you can reach them at 580-355-0535.

Comanche County was one of nine counties named in a state of emergency on June 14.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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