FEMA denies Florida's request for disaster aid for Jan. 16 tornadoes; state to appeal

State officials will appeal a federal agency's denial of disaster aid for Floridians impacted by the Jan. 16 tornadoes that destroyed or damaged 158 homes in Charlotte and Lee counties.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management received a letter Tuesday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and said it planned to appeal the decision due to the amount of destruction and displaced residents caused by the tornadoes.

In the rejection letter, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said the agency based its decision on a review of all available information.

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"...it has been determined that the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and volunteer agencies. Accordingly we have determined that supplemental federal assistance is not necessary."

Fema Rejection by Michael Braun on Scribd

Officials are working to see if there are other resources available to residents impacted by the tornadoes.

In its request, the state sought help through the federal Individuals and Households program, Disaster Case Management, Crisis Counseling and Training program, Disaster Legal Services and Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

“While we begin the decision appeal process, I want to reassure Floridians that the Division is committed to supporting recovery efforts,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie.

“We’ll continue to work with our local and federal partners to provide relief to impacted residents and ensure all types of disaster assistance is made available.”

Request to Fema for tornado relief by Michael Braun on Scribd

Series of storms brought tornadoes to Southwest Florida

A series of severe storms early on Jan. 16 in Southwest Florida included a confirmed EF-1 tornado in Charlotte County. and a confirmed EF-2 tornado in Lee County that brought wind speeds of up to 118 mph.

Dozens of mobile homes were destroyed in the Iona area of south Fort Myers, and trees were crumpled and twisted along McGregor Boulevard. Lee County estimated the tornado caused $7.1 million in damage to residential property and $1.2 million to commercial sites.

The morning storms also caused damage at a marina and mobile home park in Charlotte County.

Immediately following the tornadoes, state emergency officials deployed disaster recovery staff to the impacted counties to conduct preliminary damage assessments with county officials, FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration. These assessments determined 158 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage.

To assist with the recovery process, Gov. DeSantis issued Executive Order 22-17, declaring a state of emergency for Charlotte and Lee counties.

At the time of the aid request, power and water was still being restored to impacted areas and many households were unable to have utilities reconnected due to broken pipes.

The state said that victims of the disaster represented a significant elderly population, with 84 percent of the impacted population receiving Social Security.

Some survivors were forced to stay with neighbors to remain near their damaged homes. With a high percentage of both older adults and destroyed homes, there is a risk of decline in this specific population because of displacement and unstable housing, according to a press release from the state Division of Emergency Management.

Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or mbraun@news-press.com.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Florida plans to appeal FEMA denial of aid for Jan. 16 tornado damage