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Gov. Pence requests federal assistance for Howard Co. after Nov. 17 tornadoes

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Gov. Mike Pence requested Wednesday a federal major disaster declaration for Howard County following severe storms and tornadoes that devastated the county and other parts of Indiana on Nov. 17.

The federal assistance would include grants and low-interest loans for citizens and low-interest loans for businesses in Howard Co. that were affected.

“Having seen firsthand the damage in Kokomo and Howard County, as well as in other communities throughout Indiana, we are committed to helping Hoosiers recover from the November storms,” said Governor Pence. “According to FEMA standards, the damage in Howard County gives us a starting point for a major disaster declaration request. If Howard County is approved, we will have the opportunity to request assistance for additional counties if damage warrants.”

Nearly 200 homes sustained major damage in the storms or were destroyed. In all, officials said 1,000 homes sustained damage. Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) preliminarily estimates more than $2.84 million will be needed for unmet needs in Howard County alone after a Presidential Major Disaster for individual assistance is declared.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have insurance and need all the help they can get,” said Ted Ringeisen, who lost his home of 31 years. “It’s just devastating.”

The Ringeisen’s house will be torn down in a few days. The tornado ripped through their two bedrooms, took out their garage, pool and three cars.

The family of three, including their four dogs, had to crawl out of their front window just to make it out.

“You could hear glass breaking, and wind bowing. You didn’t dare look up because something was going to fall on you,” said Juanita Ringeisen, Ted’s wife.

Damage estimates show Howard County could need $4.5-million in direct federal aid and $10.5-million in disaster assistance loans.

The governor’s request for help will go a long way for Kokomo. The tornado-ravished town is still recovering from a record flood in the spring. Goodnight said it may take another six months before Kokomo returns to some sort of normalcy.

“They were fairly optimistic that we met the criteria,” said Mayor Greg Goodnight. “It’s a little bit of a moving target as they explained it to me, but they felt pretty good about our chances.”

Additional counties could be added, including Howard, Daviess, Fountain and Grant counties, which all have declared states of disaster emergencies.

If approved, assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans also will be available.

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