Illinois lawmakers spoke out this weekend after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied disaster funding to an Illinois town that was devastated by a Feb. 29 tornado -- which also killed seven residents.
FEMA issued the ruling over the weekend, saying the damage did not constitute a federal disaster, the Chicago Tribune reports. An agency spokesman told the Tribune they determined that the communities could rebuild with assistance from state and local agencies, along with private insurance and volunteer groups.
Harrisburg was not the only town impacted by the decision. According to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Ill.) office, five Southern Illinois counties were badly damaged in the late February storm.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he was "extremely disappointed" in the FEMA decision, and plans to appeal it.
“This decision by FEMA is unacceptable and out of touch with the reality that residents of Harrisburg, Ridgway and the surrounding areas are facing as the storm clean-up continues,” Durbin and Kirk said in a joint statement. “We fully support the appeal that Governor Quinn is putting together and would like to discuss that with Administrator Fugate and the Illinois Congressional Delegation in Washington next week.
The damage from the storms in Southern Illinois is among the worst our state has seen in recent years. Federal funding is greatly needed to help residents and families rebuild and we will continue working to see that these communities are made whole again.”
The National Weather Service listed the twister that hit Harrisburg as an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage, the Associated Press reports. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg told the Tribune that he hopes President Obama comes to his town to see how bad things really are.
The announcement came after FEMA approved disaster funding to other Midwestern towns hit by the late February storm system. The same sort of tornado that hit Harrisburg -- an EF4 -- also struck six southern Indiana counties, which will receive federal funds. The federal government will also give money to seven counties of Kentucky affected by the same storm system.
"I want to know how this decision was reached and why," Gregg said. "Because frankly, I don't understand it."
Check out photos from Harrisburg after the storm here: