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Holcomb wants disaster declaration ASAP from White House for Indiana’s tornado-ravaged counties

By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square contributor

The Center Square) – A week after parts of Indiana were hit by multiple tornadoes, Gov. Eric Holcomb called on the Biden Administration to quickly approve a disaster declaration for the state.

In a letter sent to President Biden on Thursday, Holcomb said the state experienced its fourth-largest outbreak of tornadoes over a roughly three-hour period that started last Friday and concluded early Saturday.

Holcomb said the state was hit by at least 25 tornadoes, with the National Weather Service reporting 22 of those occurred Friday across central Indiana.

The powerful storms, which produced winds of up to 155 mph, killed five people, marking the first time since March 2012 that the state suffered fatalities from more than one tornado.

On Saturday, Holcomb issued a disaster declaration for Johnson and Sullivan counties, and three days later, he included Benton, Monroe, Morgan, Owen and White to the list.

“I anticipate issuing a third executive order covering additional counties,” the governor wrote.

Besides the deaths, the state reported 34 injuries. The storms either destroyed or significantly damaged more than 320 structures.

Sullivan County, just south of Terre Haute on the Illinois state line, received some of the worst damage as an EF3 tornado traveled more than 13 miles in the community. The governor said at least 40% of the county’s residents have incomes below 150% of the poverty level and face other obstacles, such as unemployment or not having health insurance.

The tornado also destroyed or damaged 200 vehicles, and the governor said many in the community have not been able to report to work because they’ve needed to tend to their properties.

“Additionally, the emergency management director for Sullivan County has estimated that at least 40% of the homes impacted by that devastating tornado are uninsured or underinsured,” Holcomb said.

Another round of storms hit the state on Wednesday as officials compiled data for the letter to the White House. Holcomb said that has forced his administration to reassign resources to other communities.

“Therefore, to continue an effective response to this disaster, supplementary federal assistance is needed,” the governor said.

Earlier this week, Holcomb’s office set up two “one-stop” offices in Sullivan County and Whiteland, a Johnson County town 15 miles south of Downtown Indianapolis. Those centers, which are open at least through Monday, are staffed by representatives from the state Homeland Security, Motor Vehicle, Insurance, Workforce Development, Health, Family and Social Services and Housing and Community Development agencies to help residents in those areas begin the recovery process by filing for assistance or seeking replacement copies of records.

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