A year later, McCurtain County, Oklahoma, still recovering from tornado damage

Feds, state deny emergency funds so far

Adela Cox looks at the Trinity Baptist Church that was destroyed by a tornado in Idabel, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Adela Cox looks at the Trinity Baptist Church that was destroyed by a tornado in Idabel, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

IDABEL, Okla. -- A year after a tornado tore through the southeast side of town, some people are still struggling.

"We have still got people in damaged homes, homes with tarps on them," said McCurtain County Emergency Management Coordinator Cody McDaniel.

Idabel did not receive state or federal funding after the late-season tornado on Nov. 4, 2022, McDaniel said. The tornado outbreak produced at least 18 tornadoes across the south, including Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The largest twister that night spun up in Red River County, Texas, near Clarksville and traveled northeast for 58.4 miles, crossing the Red River, before lifting in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, near Idabel and Broken Bow.

The tornado was classified as an EF-4 with maximum winds of 170 mph, according to a report released by the Shreveport office of the National Weather Service. It had a maximum width of 0.6 miles.

The tornado was responsible for significant damage around Idabel's bypass, including the Kiamichi Family Medical Center. Trinity Baptist Church was preparing to complete a new building when the storm ripped apart their sanctuary and flattened the shell of the new structure next door.

One man was killed in the Pickens community in northwest McCurtain County. The EF-2 tornado in Pickens had maximum winds of 125 mph and traveled on the ground for 2.9 miles, according to the NWS.

A major disaster declaration was made in June for Oklahoma and included over $4 million in assistance across seven counties but didn't include the smaller McCurtain County, McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the county filed for an extension in early December for FEMA assistance from the Nov. 4 storm. He said it's unlikely the county will receive federal support because of the size of the area affected and the level of the storm.

"It has to be the right storm and produce enough damage," McDaniel said.

"It was major for us, but minor on the national scale," McDaniel told the organization Direct Relief in a previous interview. "It's aggravating, but it's understandable."

Direct Relief works to equip health professionals in resource-poor communities to meet the challenges of diagnosing and caring for people in need. Direct Relief issued an emergency operating grant of $50,000 to Kiamichi Health Center after the storm, according to its website.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt filed with the Small Business Administration for a disaster declaration to make low-interest federal disaster loans available to businesses and residents affected by the storms in the meantime, McDaniel said.

"It's been a tough year. But we are resilient in McCurtain County. We are used to pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps," McDaniel said.

One bit of good news is that Trinity Baptist Church recently held a service on its church campus for the first time in almost a year. Construction on the new church is almost complete, according to Trinity's Facebook page.

photo Danny Palmer, a deacon at Trinity Baptist Church, walks across the destroyed church's sanctuary Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, while looking for items to salvage after a tornado hit Idabel, Okla. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
photo Danny Palmer, a deacon at Trinity Baptist Church, stands in the destroyed church's sanctuary looking for items to salvage after a tornado hit in Idabel, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
photo Women look at the Trinity Baptist Church that was destroyed by a tornado in Idabel, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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