Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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Travel
9:38 am
Thu November 21, 2013

AAA Expects Thanksgiving Travel Drop For Oklahomans

More than 574,000 Oklahomans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving. Most will drive to their destination.
Credit timo_w2s / Flickr Creative Commons

Fewer Oklahomans are expected to travel this Thanksgiving, and most will be getting to their destination by driving.

That's according to AAA Oklahoma. The agency says more than 574,000 Oklahomans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, and of those, 90 percent will be getting there by car. More than 47,000 are expected to fly. That's down about 3 percent compared to last year.

AAA projects 43.4 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday week. That's a decrease of 1.5 percent compared to last year.

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Devon
8:58 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Devon Acquisition Shows Shift To Oil

Credit Devon Energy

Devon Energy Corp. is buying oil-producing assets and other property in the Eagle Ford in Texas from GeoSouthern Energy for $6 billion.

Devon said Wednesday that the assets include current production of 53,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and 82,000 net acres with at least 1,200 undrilled locations.

The acquisition includes acreage in DeWitt and Lavaca counties in Texas. The assets are expected to reach a peak production rate of about 140,000 BOE per day.

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The Two-Way
8:27 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Jobless Claims And Wholesale Prices Drop

Part of the scene at a job fair for veterans and family members earlier this month in Marietta, Ga.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 10:47 am

While it's always important to keep in mind that neither one week nor one month make for a trend, there is good economic news to pass along:

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U.S.
8:25 am
Thu November 21, 2013

In Tornado-Ravaged Illinois 'War Zone,' Veterans Find A Mission

Washington, Ill., sits in ruins as the sun rises Monday, a day after a severe tornado tore through the community.
Zbigniew Bzdak MCT/Landov

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 1:10 pm

Lots of people in and around Washington, Ill., are referring to the areas devastated by Sunday's tornado as looking like a war zone.

David Casler is among them.

"Right here, right now, if you look around this street, this is a war zone, only no one's shooting at us," he says.

Casler knows the difference. He served as a Marine in Iraq in 2004 and was subsequently hit by a roadside bomb while working there as a security contractor, suffering a brain injury.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:48 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Resistance To Coal Mine Regulations Could Cost Oklahoma Some Of Its Sovereignty

Leflore County resident Alan Brady says the large berm in the background blocks the view of the mountains he had before mining started.
Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma and the federal government aren’t getting along.

From health insurance exchanges to power plant emissions, the Obama Administration just can’t seem to get Oklahoma to play ball.

And there’s a lesser-known fight that’s starting to get more attention — over coal mining. More specifically, how land is treated after it’s mined.

There’s a hearing underway in Poteau this week, where attorneys for Farrell-Cooper Mining Company are appealing federal violations at three of its former mines.

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Winter Weather
7:53 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Icing With Strong Winds Could Cause Power Outages

The Norman Forecast Office of the National Weather Service says icing is possible over the next few days.
Credit NWS Norman

Although most ice accumulations will be light, a few spots may be around one-quarter inch.

With strong winds, even light ice accumulation will result in downed tree limbs and possibly damage to power.

This could result in sporadic power outages. Outside of bridges and overpasses, no significant travel problems are expected. Monitor this situation closely..

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Teachers And Firefighters Effective Lobbyists
5:09 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Groups Form Coalition To Fight Pension Changes

Credit Katsrcool / Flickr Creative Commons

Groups representing teachers, firefighters and prison workers have formed a coalition to fight a plan by the Legislature to make changes to Oklahoma's public retirement systems.

Members of "Keep Oklahoma's Promises" met Wednesday at the Capitol following a joint meeting of a House and Senate committee that is looking to shift newly hired state workers from a traditional defined benefit pension plan to more of a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

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Parallels
4:07 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

A Chronic Problem In Disaster Zones: No Fuel

Filipino men stand in line to fill containers with gas in Tacloban, Philippines, on Sunday. The area experienced widespread gas shortages in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 6:00 pm

In the wake of any natural disaster, there are almost always shortages of fuel. Even in the United States, gas stations shut down during blackouts because there's no electricity to run their pumps.

It was no different in the Philippines, where practically no fuel was available after Typhoon Haiyan struck. Aid agencies said the lack of gasoline was a major impediment to relief efforts.

One small American nonprofit called the Fuel Relief Fund is trying to change that.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:22 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

To Get Data On Disposal Well Earthquakes, State Might Create One

Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

While there is a growing amount of scientific research that links central-Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm to wells the oil and gas industry uses for waste-fluid disposal, geophysicists and seismologists don’t fully understand the phenomenon.

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The Two-Way
1:12 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey Among 16 Honored At White House

From one president to another: Former President Bill Clinton receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from current President Obama.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 7:04 pm

A former president, a baseball legend, a country music star and a woman who's a powerhouse in American media were among 16 people honored Wednesday at the White House with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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