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State Plans To Appeal FEMA Tornado Decision

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IOWA CITY - The state of Iowa is likely going to appeal FEMA's decision to withhold federal money from Johnson County. The county's emergency management coordinator says the numbers might have been too confusing for FEMA.

The state included public and individual estimates following the April 13th tornadoes. Public estimates include city and county infrastructure: buildings, roads, transportation. Individual estimates include homeowners and private businesses. FEMA told the state the damage totals were not high enough. Iowa City estimates it spent about $3.4 million following the tornado. The county spent between $1 million and $1.5 million.

The University of Iowa is estimating anywhere from $5 million to $6 million. University officials say there was $287,000 in damage to trees alone. Some cannot be replaced with trees of the same maturity. Replacing 65 trees carries a price tag of about $450 each. Most were trees providing shade for walkers and cars in parking lots.

Emergency management officials say splitting up the public and individual numbers could help Johnson County, Iowa City and the University of Iowa recoup some of the lost money. Johnson County emergency management coordinator Tom Hanson said, "I think if we pull the individual out of there and leave the public in there and be available with whatever information they need to help our case, I think we have a good chance of getting the public."

As for the individual estimates, Hanson says the small business administration will take care of that part of the appeal.

It is up to governor Vilsack to file the appeal for federal aid. And he has backing in Washington. Chuck Grassley (R) Iowa said, "If (Vilsack) appeals, I intend to support that appeal and hopefully get reconsideration and get aid for Iowa City and Johnson County."

At this time there is no telling how long the appeal process will take. It was two months after the tornado before FEMA declined the first request.

Email Steve Nicoles at

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