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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Oaklawn neighborhood meeting answers tornado cleanup questions

By Hurst Laviana
The Wichita Eagle

About 200 people whose lives were disrupted by the Saturday night tornado attended a town hall meeting Thursday night in Oaklawn to get some answers from public officials about how the cleanup is going.

There are no deadlines for when debris must be removed from storm-damaged properties, they were told. And so far no federal money has been allocated to help with the cleanup.

The EF-3 tornado caused extensive damage in the Oaklawn neighborhood and adjacent Pinaire Mobile Home Park. Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing and Hawker Beechcraft also suffered heavy damage.

Some of those attending the meeting at the Oaklawn Activity Center, 4904 S. Clifton, said they attended to get an update on the status of the cleanup.

Emergency Manager Randy Duncan said county crews hauled 101 truck loads of debris from the damaged area on Thursday — up from the 51 loads that were hauled a day earlier.

Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said there have been seven arrests in the area since the tornado. Though none of the arrests was for looting, Hinshaw said, that may have been the intent of at least some of the suspects before they were taken into custody on other charges.

Some of those attending the meeting came with specific questions:

•  Is there a limit on the length of tree limbs that can be left by the curb for pickup by the county?

“If you can carry it or drag it, it’s OK,” said Bob Dix, a member of the Oaklawn Improvement District Board of Directors.

Although there is no limit on the size of limbs, Dix said, it’s important to not mix trees with other trash.

“We have a burn permit for trees only,” he said.

•  Can wood from damaged fences be left by the curb?

“Only if it’s conventional lumber,” he said. “A few nails we can live with.”

•  How long do residents have to salvage property from their damaged homes?

Duncan said no deadlines have been set.

“We’re not going to come in an haul your stuff away yet,” he said.

•  Will residents be eligible for federal disaster aid?

Duncan said residents may soon be eligible for low-interest Small Business Association loans. But first, he said, the county has to show that there were at least 25 homes or businesses that suffered losses that were 40 percent or more uninsured.

“I’m confident we’re headed in that direction,” he said.

•  When will mail service resume in the affected areas?

“We don’t have anything for you right now, but we are seeking that information,” Duncan said.

One man in the audience said a front-end loader dumped a pile of debris on his driveway right after the tornado, and his neighbors mistakenly thought it was a makeshift dump. Duncan referred him to those involved in the cleanup.

Chrissy Hart, whose rented home was destroyed by the tornado, said after the meeting that most of her questions about the cleanup had been answered.

She said was surprised to learn that FEMA wasn’t providing financial assistance those who lost property in the tornado. She said she was happy to know the main rule for storm cleanup: Trees and limbs get stacked by the curb, while all other trash goes into trash bins.

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