NOREEN: Detailed comparison of damage from local fire vs. Oklahoma tornado waits on details

By Barry Noreen Published: May 23, 2013 | 6:20 pm 0

"Don't you think it would be newsworthy," a reader asked, "to compare the number of homes destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire and the government aid promises/delivered with the tornado in Moore, Okla.? It would have to not factor in the schools destroyed, but I haven't heard a homes destroyed number. I'll bet it's a lot fewer than our fire area. Just a thought."

The answer to this question cannot yet be precise because the damage in Oklahoma is so horrendous, no one has had time to tabulate it. The Waldo Canyon fire killed two people and destroyed 347 homes.

The public infrastructure that was destroyed in the fire was relatively minimal - no schools or hospitals were burned. Some utilities infrastructure here was damaged, but when compared with the devastation in Oklahoma, it was incidental.

Up to 13,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the huge tornado and officials have estimated the damage to amount to $2 billion, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Wednesday.

There were 24 fatalities and an estimated 33,000 people were affected by the storm.

While one reader may not want to factor in schools and hospitals that were destroyed, it might be difficult to explain to a resident of Moore, Okla., why public infrastructure should not be counted, because it is going to have to be rebuilt and someone is going to have to pay for it.

The federal government has $11 billion in its main disaster relief fund and the recovery effort in Oklahoma won't come close to draining the account. Recovery costs in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore are expected to be a relatively small fraction of that amount.

The Disaster Relief Fund is designed to pay for immediate recovery efforts such as debris removal and temporary housing. Two schools and a hospital also will likely be rebuilt using the fund.

Use of the disaster fund has had some political overtones. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, voted against funneling aid to northeastern states hit by Superstorm Sandy. Most other Oklahoma Republicans voted against the Sandy relief bill in January.

Regardless of politics, the tornado in Oklahoma wreaked far more havoc than the Waldo Canyon fire.

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Contact Barry Noreen at 636-0363 or barry.noreen@gazette.com. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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