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Altus devastated by storm, continues to clean up

Altus_Altus is still cleaning up after a devastating storm last Thursday, and it will cost more than $8 million to repair the damage.  85 miles per hour winds knocked down power poles, tore roofs , and even completely destroyed some businesses.  It couldn't have come at a worse time for the town which was just on the heels of a new city sales tax increase proposal to upgrade Altus infrastructure.  But now, city officials say the proposal may not even put a dent in the cost of the clean up alone.

Altus has seen millions of dollars in damage over the weekend, and officials are sure that Governor Henry will declare it a disaster.  If assistance is approved, Altus will receive the funding needed, and citizens won't have to foot the repair bill in their taxes.

Crews from Duncan, Edmond, Stillwater, and Denton, Texas, have been working around the clock to restore over 90% of the city's power, but it has cost folks more than just a few days without television - some are without work.  Sharon Howland says that the power outage kept her from her job, cutting hours from her paycheck, and costing her family groceries.  "A lot of people lost their food, you know?  So did we," she said.  "But, there was nothing we could do about it.  It's just one of those things, you know."

The City of Altus could lose even more, though.  Administrator Michael Nettles says the damage is so extensive that they've declared it a disaster despite having materials on hand and some reserve funds to begin to repair the damage.  "The bottom line is we do hope to get state and federal assistance because of the magnitude of the disaster," he said.

If Altus doesn't get assistance, the city will have to find another way to pay the bill - which could mean higher taxes.  "A lot of them just can't afford that.  You know, it's just going to be hard for them," said Nettles.  The city already has plans to vote on raising sales taxes to rebuild the aging police station and city hall, but Nettles says he is confident Governor Henry will sign the declaration.  "In addition, with all the reconstruction going on, there will be some sales tax dollars generated by people coming in to work here, as well as the businesses selling supplies," he said.

One of the city's largest employers, Bar-S, is still without power, and city officials say they are leaving the city dump open late for them to dump 1.6 million pounds of spoiled product ruined in the power outage. 

Comanche County Emergency Management is doing its part to help in Altus.  They got a call early on Friday morning requesting generators to run the shelter.  "Anytime we can help out a fellow county, or fellow emergency management team here in out state, we're gonna do that," says Comanche County PIO Chris Killmer.  "So we took over some generators to help them run their shelter for the citizens who didn't have a place to stay for that night."

The shelter fed nearly 1,000 people over the weekend, and gave two dozen people a place to spend the night.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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