Indiana to appeal FEMA denial for tornado aid

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Governor Mike Pence says Hoosiers affected by last month's tornadoes deserve relief. But unless an appeal is granted, help won't come from the federal government because FEMA denied Howard County's request for a major disaster declaration.

According to Howard County, 191 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage during tornadoes that struck on Nov. 17. In all, nearly 1,000 homes received some damage from the storm.

The denial for federal aid is disappointing for Howard County residents.

FEMA said the damage was not severe enough to warrant federal assistance, and didn't go beyond what state and local agencies are able to provide in terms of help and resources.

But looking up and down a tornado-ravaged street just south of downtown Kokomo, it's easy to sympathize with residents who may not understand FEMA's decision. Ten houses were destroyed on that one street alone, which isn't even the hardest-hit area of Kokomo.

Don Hutchison calls his damage minor. He's having his roof replaced. But he feels for his neighbors who can't go home. Still, he says he's not all that surprised by FEMA's decision.

"It's the magnitude - we don't have the magnitude of the hurricanes, but it's still pretty devastating for the people here. We're Kokomo...the little automotive town that's been very resilient but we still could use some help. Don't turn your back on us," Hutchison said.

A spokesperson for the state's Department of Homeland Security says given the hurricanes and other major disasters that FEMA has helped with in recent years, it has become tougher to qualify for federal aid. Nonetheless, they plan to appeal. They will send FEMA a letter asking for a reassessment of Kokomo tornado damage and a request to inspect other storm-damaged areas as well.