NORMAN, Okla. — While some survivors of the May 20 tornado are beginning to rebuild their homes and their lives, some are being denied that opportunity.
Cleveland County residents living in the area of 149th Street and May Avenue, whose homes were considered to have substantial damage, cannot get a permit to rebuild because their homes were located in a designated floodplain.
Adhir Agrawal, flood plain manager for the city of Oklahoma City, said there are several reasons behind the city denying the residents permits to rebuild.
The first reason is a city ordinance that basically says you cannot have any structure in the floodplain if it is destroyed or substantially damaged, Agrawal said. In addition, he said FEMA watches how the city enforces their ordinances.
Legislation passed in 2012 had FEMA and other agencies change the way the National Flood Insurance program is run. Therefore, the city’s eligibility to get flood insurance can be affected if the city doesn’t enforce flood ordinances effectively.
To complicate the matter, those who have homes in the area that were not considered a complete loss, or “substantially damaged,” are being allowed the opportunity to rebuild.
Agrawal said the city ordinance is based off FEMA’s definition of a “substantially damaged” home. If the repair costs more than 50 percent of the replacement value, he said they cannot issue a building permit.
The same ordinance is followed for every situation such as a house fire, not just a tornado, he said.
As far as the homes that are being permitted to rebuild, there are still ordinances they have to follow as well. Agrawal said they have to rebuild the home to the same blueprints before the home was damaged and they can’t build additional structures, such as another barn.
Agrawal said he was unsure whether the homes were built prior to the area being designated a floodplain.