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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Healing After Hurricanes

September 11, 2017
Weekly Columns
Oklahomans are all too familiar with natural disasters. Having dealt with deadly tornadoes on a regular basis, we are painfully aware of the destruction and heartbreak that they visit upon our communities. Loss of life, destruction of property, and the hopelessness that settles upon us when mother nature’s reign of terror finally subsides, is unfortunately a part of life in this part of the country. 
 
Two weeks ago, our nation was horrified to see the historic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey as it ravaged the city of Houston and the surrounding areas. To date, it is one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in the United States, and will likely exceed the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. To put this into perspective, roughly one third of Harris County has been under water sometimes as deep as fifty inches. That is approximately the size of the entirety of Cleveland County. There are estimates that the cost of the damage brought about by Harvey will exceed the combined damage of Katrina and Sandy and could approach two hundred billion dollars.
 
Shortly afterwards this past week, the U.S. suffered another damaging blow from Hurricane Irma. The destruction left in its path will be costly as well. After Harvey, we are prepared to work with and support FEMA again so that they are not spread thin and ready to help with recovery in Florida.
 
When Moore was hit in 2013 by a devastating EF5 tornado that killed and injured hundreds of people, the outpouring of support from individuals, non-profits and the government was truly astounding. President Obama, who never won a single county in Oklahoma, was on the ground one week later pledging to Oklahoma that “We’ve got your back." And while he and his policies were never popular in Oklahoma, I saw personally how much the residents of Moore appreciated his visit and his empathy. On that day we ceased to be Democrats and Republicans and just became Oklahomans who cared for one another and were willing to do whatever we could to help one another.
 
Now it’s time for all of us to have Houston’s and Florida’s backs. As recovery efforts continue, it will be hard to predict the exact dollar amount that will be needed in the long run to provide aid immediately. This past week, the House passed a measure that will provide nearly $8 billion for immediate recovery and relief and $7 billion for long term reconstruction. Whatever the numbers may be eventually, we should give the millions of our fellow citizens, first responders, FEMA and other related agencies the resources they need to recover and rebuild. 
 
I commend President Trump, Governor Abbott, Governor Scott and our FEMA officials for their resilience and dedication to helping those in need. More importantly, I am proud to hear of and see the heroism from local law enforcement, first responders, local citizens and volunteers who are on the front lines to help others. Recovery may take time, but as we have in the past, our nation will heal.