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Tornado Devastates NFC Building, But Not NFC Workers

Within minutes of being notified of an impending storm, the employees of the US Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center (NFC) in New Orleans felt the devastating impact of the EF-3 tornado that descend upon the two-story building with enough force to tear away whole sections of the brick façade in eight places and leave portions of its interior exposed to the elements.

“I could see it coming,” said Tara Gilliam, chief of Human Resources Management Staff. “It swallowed the building in a matter of seconds.”

Bouncing Back from Destruction

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

When a tornado touched down in the rural southeast Missouri town of Puxico it sent some ranchers into survival mode.   David Smith, owner of Smith Farms was one of them.

“It was a tough setback, financially,” said Smith.

The tornado destroyed three grain bins and damaged two others, causing a loss of about 3,400 bushels of wheat and 4,000 bushels of corn used as feed for over 1,500 cattle. Within minutes Smith saw thousands of dollars blow away, along with fences, a hay barn, outbuildings and feeding equipment.

Rural Development Helps Restore Water Supply to Town of Gifford after Devastating Tornado

Four months after a tornado ripped through the town of Gifford, Illinois, destroying its water tower, 70 homes, and damaging 40 others, visible and emotional aftereffects remain.

On November 17, the day the tornado touched down, I called my colleague and Gifford resident Molly Hammond, who wistfully noted during our conversation, that “Everyone is all right.  But not everything is all right!”

No doubt her sentiments reflected those of Gifford’s other 1,000 residents.

After Oklahoma Tornado, USDA Assists in Pet Rescues

“His name is Zeke,” read the Facebook posting after the May tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. “He’s a male boxer, almost 6 months old. Wearing green collar. Last seen near NW 63rd and Portland. He is fawn, black mask with white marking on face, chest and paws. We miss him very much. Please return.”

There are a lot fewer missing or homeless “Zekes” today due to the efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) and partners who are working to reunite lost pets with their heart-stricken owners.

USDA Continues to Provide Assistance to Oklahoma Tornado Survivors

USDA personnel continue to assist the State of Oklahoma and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the wake of the tornadoes and heavy rains that occurred this week.

Earlier this week, USDA announced that it was working to assist Oklahomans who were left homeless by providing FEMA with a list of vacant USDA-financed apartments in the area.  USDA is also working with FEMA by providing information on vacant government-financed single family homes.  Individuals needing immediate help finding emergency housing are asked to contact FEMA directly. USDA is also working to assist owners of USDA-financed homes in the disaster area that have direct or guaranteed mortgages.   If you have questions about your USDA mortgage, please call USDA's Centralized Servicing Center at 800-414-1226.

Food Safety Tips for Those Impacted by Storms

Following a disaster, those affected should be aware of these safety tips:

Anyone with questions about the safety of their food as a result of weather damage and power outages is encouraged to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (888-MPHotline), available in English and Spanish from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT.

Ask Karen, FSIS’ virtual food safety representative who has the answers to nearly 1,500 food safety questions, is available 24/7 from your smartphone at, also in English and Spanish. Ask Karen can be downloaded for free for iOS and Android devices.

USDA Offers Assistance to Tornado Victims

Following the devastating effects of tornadoes this week, USDA is offering assistance to those in need.  USDA offers many programs that can provide assistance to landowners, farmers, ranchers and producers during disasters.  No Presidential or Secretarial declarations are required for the provision of much of this assistance.

Agricultural producers are reminded that Federal crop insurance covers tornado damage, as well as other natural causes of loss.  Please remember to report your loss to your insurance agent or company within 72 hours and in writing within 15 days. Your insurance company will send out a loss adjuster as soon as they are safely able to do so and will document your insurance claim. Please remember that you cannot destroy your crop or plant a new crop until the loss adjuster or your insurance company has informed you that you can do so.

USDA Funds Upgrade Storm Sirens in Four Rural Minnesota Communities

Tyler, Minn., is a long way from New York City, but the small-town of 1,143 people has something in common with the Big Apple: Both have recently had to deal with major weather events.

Obviously, the destruction and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is on a much wider scale than what Tyler experienced when a tornado leveled homes and businesses on July 1, 2011. But both disasters highlight the importance of emergency preparedness, whether you live in a high-rise in midtown Manhattan, or on a farm in Tyler.

Rural communities face unique challenges when dealing with emergency response and major weather events. It’s essential that small towns have the latest technology and equipment to keep residents safe during an emergency.

USDA Rural Development Team Steps Forward to Assist a Tornado-Damaged Kansas Community

Weather-related disasters have plagued the United States this spring and the rebuilding efforts appear daunting.  The same weekend that Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by an EF5 tornado, Reading, Kansas, a rural town with a population of 250 was struck by an EF3 tornado.  The scale of the damage in Reading is not comparable to Joplin in terms of dollars, numbers of homes and businesses damaged, or in lives lost.  But the damage in the eyes of each individual and family is equal when you talk to displaced residents of either community.

The Worst U. S. Tornado in 60 Years Hits Joplin, Missouri

The devastation in Joplin is unbelievable, heartbreaking and hard to describe. I have never seen anything like it and hope to never again. The twister tore a path a mile wide and six miles long through the main part of town. It impacted hundreds of businesses and destroyed over 2,000 homes. More than 120 people lost their lives and over 800 people were injured. Scores remain missing or unaccounted for.