FEMA to close Picher office

Saturday, June 21st 2008, 9:13 pm
By: News 9

By Steve Berg, for NEWS 9

PICHER, Okla. - The Federal Emergency Management Agency is closing its Picher headquarters six weeks after a tornado destroyed most of the northwest Oklahoma town.

Most people who need help have gotten their applications and so the agency will officially close its disaster headquarters, FEMA's Winston Barton said. After the agency leaves residents can call 1-800-621-FEMA for assistance.

"We are going to leave a representative here for at least another week," Barton said.

Barton said the Small Business Administration will likely have an office open for another month.

The town was already in the process of a federal buyout because it is a toxic Superfund site. Businesses have dwindled to just the bank and the funeral home.

Residents like Donna Reeves say the tornado sped up the town's demise.

Reeves was born in Picher and her dad worked for the fire department. She recently moved to nearby Commerce, but decided to return to Picher on Saturday to look for a rose bush that her father had started at his house, and that she transplanted at her family's home.

"We thought it was gone, right after the storm, but it's coming back out," she said. "I've got several rose bushes at the house in Commerce, but I want a start of that one because Daddy got it started to begin with."

Reeves said losing her home in the tornado wasn't as hard as leaving her hometown.

"That's the hard thing, but we'll be OK," she said.