Yukon using last of available FEMA money for shelter program

Shelter Installation

All around Yukon concrete is flowing, workers are shoveling and storm shelters take form.

It's one of the last cities currently using FEMA money to help citizens weather a storm.

"It came in our water bill...the opportunity for a grant," said Yukon resident Deborah Musick.

Deborah said the El Reno tornado is when she realized she needed a room underground.

"That tornado coming across and it was headed right for our house...just the thought that we could be here with the children or grandchildren really concerned us," she said.

Her shelter is one of the 488 Yukon shelters put in place with FEMA money since the city applied around a year and a half ago. And they expect to help residents install around 200 more before the money runs out.

Funding came from a surplus state pot, left over from past disasters. It covers 75 percent or up to $2,000 of the individual shelter cost.

Yukon City Manager Grayson Bottom says the point was to help encourage people to shelter in place.

"We saw how many people died trying to drive out of the way of the storm," he said.

If you're wondering why your city isn't in the program, there are a few possibilities.

Officials might not have known about the surplus before money ran out. Or they might have elected to not jump through the FEMA hoops. They require that all addresses being considered for the grant be submitted before they award any money.

"You do business with the government when you have time," explained Bottom. He says he and his City Council made the shelter rebate program a priority because they believe it's one of the best ways tax dollars can be spent.

Installers for Yukon-based FlatSafe Tornado Shelters put more than 30 shelters in the ground every day.

With each one they're helping families like the Musicks with their peace of mind.

"It's having a place for our family to go," Deborah said, "and I feel safe and happy and thrilled it's here."

It's an investment that's worth it to many Oklahoma families, but one you hope you never have to use.

Due to the recent disaster declaration, more money will filter down to programs like this in the future. Find out more about the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

FEMA recommends local governments apply now so they can already be on the list when the money becomes available.