President Donald Trump declared a disaster in Oklahoma on Saturday, making federal assistance available to those affected by severe storms, tornadoes and floods in Tulsa, Muskogee and Wagoner counties.
Assistance is available in many forms to individuals and business owners affected by the storms beginning May 7, including grants for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.
Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the declaration Sunday, thanking Trump for his support and “quick action.”
“As damage assessments continue, I will request aid for all counties that suffered losses to homes or businesses, whether from flooding, tornadoes, or other severe weather,” Stitt said in a news release.
Weeks of flooding, tornadoes and severe storms left six people dead statewide, 118 injured and hundreds of homes destroyed, according to the release.
An aerial damage assessment of Tulsa, Muskogee and Wagoner counties found more than 913 homes were damaged. Of those, 517 sustained major damage and 335 were destroyed, according to the release.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and local emergency managers to schedule damage assessments in other affected counties as early as this week, the release states. Teams will survey damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.
Funding is available statewide on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures, and to state, tribal and local governments and some private nonprofit organizations in Tulsa, Muskogee and Wagoner counties for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including overtime pay for first responders.
Emergency protective measures limited to direct federal assistance will also be provided to Haskell, Kay, LeFlore, Noble, Osage, Pawnee and Sequoyah counties.
Businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory and other business assets, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration news release.
SBA also offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs for small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations. Economic injury assistance is available to businesses regardless of property damage, the release states.
Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace real estate, and homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.
Business owners and homeowners can also obtain additional funds to help with the cost of improvement projects to prevent the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.
Interest rates can be as low as 4% for businesses, 2.75% for private nonprofit organizations and 1.938% for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years, according to the release.
Those wishing to be considered for all forms of disaster assistance must first contact FEMA at disasterassistance.gov. When Federal-State Disaster Recovery Centers open throughout the affected areas, SBA will provide one-on-one assistance to disaster loan applicants.
Additional information and details on the location of disaster recovery centers is available by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955.
Chief Photographer Tom Gilbert went up in a helicopter to show what the flooding looked like on Friday.
No matter how many times he walks among those rows of marble crosses, Henry Bodden’s eyes are always drawn to the dates.
And in his head, he can’t help doing the grim math.
“So many were in their teens and 20s,” he said, adding that as he scans the markers, he notes the names, units and death dates engraved on them.
But the image of those strikingly white headstones is only part of what Bodden takes away every time he visits the Normandy American Cemetery in France.
Even more memorable are the living veterans.
Among the troops who survived D-Day, many eventually choose to go back, Bodden said.
“They all want to talk about it,” he said of the veterans he’s met at the cemetery. “They go there to relive their memories. It’s a humbling experience to be there with them.”
This Thursday, June 6, the eyes of the world will be on Normandy, as U.S. President Donald Trump and other global leaders arrive to help mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II.
And for the first time in a long time, Bodden won’t be there. The Owasso resident, an amateur historian who for a number of years led annual weeklong D-Day tours, has other obligations this year.
But it’s hard to find anyone who’s visited Normandy more times than Bodden and who can speak to its power and importance.
Walking in the footsteps of those who pulled off the largest amphibious operation in history has changed his life, he said.
“As a historian, I can’t get enough of it,” said Bodden, who talked about his experiences with the World last week.
“The stakes were extremely high if (D-Day) failed.”
The anniversary commemorates the launch on June 6, 1944, of the invasion of Normandy, an effort by the Allies to gain a foothold on the European continent, which they knew was imperative to ultimately defeating Germany.
The D-Day invasion, known as Operation Overlord, would be successful. But not without a cost. More than 4,000 Allied troops were killed that June 6.
Bodden was familiar with the basics, but it wasn’t until a film reenactment of those events that he decided he wanted to experience the sites firsthand.
“The movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ came out in 1998,” he said, “and I was so moved by the opening and closing scenes” at Omaha Beach and the cemetery there. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to go there.’ ”
By that time, Bodden already had a growing passion for history-themed travel and “then and now” photography — finding sites from old photos, taking new images, and displaying them side by side.
For Bodden, Normandy seemed like it would fit right in with those interests, which at the time were just a hobby.
His first of many trips soon followed.
From Normandy, his growing interest in WWII led him later to tour the Philippines and visit Iwo Jima. On both trips, he was among groups of veterans returning to the sites.
“Those experiences and being around those guys is what changed me from a tourist to a World War II advocate,” Bodden said. “I thought, ‘How can I do something to help keep their stories alive?’ ”
That question became the motivation for his book “In the Footsteps of Valor.”
In it, he chronicles in words and images his experiences traveling to WWII sites, along with the memories and stories of veterans he’s met along the way.
An example of a story that Bodden has kept alive through the book is that of D-Day veteran Quentin Robinson.
Bodden first became aware of the late veteran when his family contacted him with a question.
“They were going to get rid of (Robinson’s) Purple Heart and other decorations and wanted to know if I wanted them,” he said. “That’s quite common. A lot of times families are just not that interested.”
Robinson, he learned, had served on the USS Emmons, one of the Navy ships that bombarded the Normandy beaches on D-Day. The destroyer later was sunk in a kamikaze attack in the Pacific.
Robinson survived and received a Purple Heart. Now, instead of “ending up in a dumpster,” Bodden said, the medal has a place of honor in his collections.
Bodden is not a veteran himself, but a personal connection to the 3rd Infantry Division — his son previously served in it — led him to take over as editor of the unit’s magazine when he was asked a couple of years ago.
Between that job and his travels, he’s built up an impressive knowledge of military history and other subjects.
Not a bad background for a tour guide.
For Bodden, who works for Valor Tours, a military history tour operator, leading tours is another way he can keep those veterans’ stories alive, he said. As a guide, he’s able to give others a more informative and meaningful experience at WWII sites.
When leading D-Day tours, Bodden likes to throw in a few sites of his own discovery.
“Places that aren’t on the itinerary — that’s what’s most exciting to me,” he said, adding that he’s identified sites used in such films as “The Longest Day” and “Band of Brothers.”
The opportunity to lead tours first came up a few years ago, he said. Valor was in need of guides for two upcoming ones in Europe: a tour of Normandy and another of sites related to the Battle of the Bulge.
Bodden jumped at the chance. With his wife, Jane, at his side, he’s led both of the weeklong tours back-to-back every year since.
He said originally Valor’s tours were designed to cater to WWII veterans. But with their numbers having dwindled, it’s changed.
“Now it’s mostly families of World War II veterans or history buffs,” he said. “It’s still not your average tourists.”
There are innumerable sites in Normandy connected to the massive D-Day military operation, and Bodden’s tours are packed with them.
Among the ones that he loves to tell the story behind is Pegasus Bridge, where early on D-Day a British glider unit bravely took a stand and held off the Germans.
Bodden’s groups also visit the five beach areas where the Allied invaders came ashore, including the one code-named “Omaha,” where so many young Americans fell.
The cemeteries never fail to stir emotions, Bodden said.
He has taken groups to sites where British, Canadian and even German war dead are buried. However, it’s the Normandy American Cemetery near Omaha Beach, that is most stirring for Bodden.
“I never tire of it,” he said.
There are few experiences to compare with being in Normandy for the annual anniversary, Bodden said.
The streets of the towns are teeming, the hotels and restaurants full.
Everywhere you look are aging WWII veterans, he said. The British outnumber all others. For them, it’s a much shorter trip across the channel.
The British veterans are especially decked out.
“I’ve never seen so many medals,” he said, laughing.
He remembers the response at one restaurant when a 104-year-old British veteran entered, walking with a cane.
“The restaurant owner called attention to him, and everybody stood up and applauded,” he said.
Bodden is all too aware that these experiences won’t be available much longer. The number of veterans who go back to Normandy grows fewer with every passing year.
That fact, he added, makes this week’s 75th anniversary even more significant.
“This will be the last major anniversary where we still have some of them with us,” Bodden said. “For the 80th there won’t be many left.”
TAHLEQUAH — Based on preliminary results, the Cherokee Nation’s former Secretary of State is about to get a new job title: principal chief.
According to unofficial results released early Sunday morning by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, Chuck Hoskin Jr. defeated Tribal Councilor Dick Lay to succeed Bill John Baker as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Hoskin received 7,819 votes, or 57.93% of the 13,498 ballots cast, while Lay received 3,691 votes or 27.34%.
Former candidate David Walkingstick received 1,988 votes, or 14.73%. Walkingstick was disqualified by the Cherokee Nation Election Commission on May 17 over allegations about potential collaboration between his campaign and Cherokees for Change, a third party limited liability corporation registered with the state of Oklahoma by Rusty Appleton, then his campaign’s financial agent.
The tribe’s Supreme Court upheld the disqualification on Wednesday, well after absentee ballots were mailed out and the start of early walk-in voting. Two-thirds of the votes cast for Walkingstick were via absentee ballot.
A resident of Vinita, Hoskin previously served on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma.
Acknowledging the mudslinging that went on during the campaign, Hoskin said he sees his margin of victory as a chance to try to bring Cherokee voters back together over the course of the next four years.
“There have been some contentious moments in this election, but we have a result that speaks to the opportunity to unify the Cherokee people,” Hoskin said. “I want to keep the focus on the progress we’ve made and I think (deputy chief-elect) Bryan Warner and I can do that. I want to be everyone’s chief.”
On Sunday afternoon, Lay said he was proud of winning precincts not only close to home in Washington and Nowata counties, but also in areas where he did not have strong name recognition previously, including Cherokee and Adair counties.
The Ochelata native confirmed that he met with Walkingstick Saturday night and shook hands over the unofficial results, but had not had a chance to follow suit with Hoskin yet.
“I met a lot of great people and made some great friends,” he said. “This is a positive. I’m not looking at this as a negative. This was an opportunity. I took it, I tried it and it didn’t work out.”
Warner, the Tribal Council representative for eastern Sequoyah County, defeated former Tribal Council speaker and current Mayes County Commissioner Meredith Frailey for the deputy chief position. Warner received 7,940 votes, or 59.27%, while Frailey received 5,457 votes, or 40.73%.
The results were posted about 1:30 a.m. Sunday on the Election Commission’s doors, along with a precinct-by-precinct count of 406 challenge ballots to be reviewed Sunday. As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the results of that review were not available.
Meanwhile, three of the eight seats on the Tribal Council up this election cycle are heading to a runoff, including two of the four that cover portions of the Tulsa metropolitan area.
In District 12, Dora L. Smith Patzkowski and Phyllis Lay finished first and second among four candidates to replace term-limited incumbent Dick Lay. District 12 spans all of Washington County, far northwest Tulsa County and the southern half of Nowata County.
Former Tribal Council member Julia Coates and Broken Arrow resident Johnny Jack Kidwell advanced to a run-off out of a four-candidate field for one of the council’s two at-large seats. Coates received 977 votes, or 45.36%, while Kidwell received 663 votes, or 30.78%.
Tribal citizens eligible to vote at-large include Tulsans living south of Admiral Place, as well as residents of Jenks, Broken Arrow and other communities outside the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional area.
The incumbent, Wanda Hatfield, was disqualified in mid-April after it was confirmed that she included campaign literature in with Cherokee Nation checks sent to at-large communities in Oregon and California, leaving four challengers for the position.
A run-off is also slated for District 3, which covers southern Cherokee County and a sliver of Tahlequah. Unofficial results show Wes Nofire and Deb Proctor finished first and second among seven candidates for Walkingstick’s seat.
Incumbents earning a second term include District 1 councilor Rex Jordan, District 8 councilor Shawn Crittenden and District 14 councilor Keith Austin, whose district includes Tulsa County north of Oklahoma 20 and east of U.S. 75, as well as Oologah, Chelsea and part of Claremore.
In District 13, Joe Deere ran unopposed after the Cherokee Nation Election Commission ruled incumbent Buel Anglen ineligible. District 13 includes Tulsa County between Oklahoma 20 and Admiral Place, plus far southwestern Rogers County.
Sallisaw resident Daryl Legg won District 6, eastern Sequoyah County, outright among three candidates. He will succeed Warner on the council starting in August.
As per the tribe’s election code, recount requests must be submitted by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Any appeals must be filed by 5 p.m. on June 10.
Absentee ballot requests for the July 27 run-off election must be submitted by June 17.
Chief Photographer Tom Gilbert went up in a helicopter to show what the flooding looked like on Friday.