May 21st, 2013
07:38 AM ET
11 months ago

Obama: Americans stand with Oklahoma for 'as long as it takes'

Washington (CNN) – Describing the tornado that swept across the Oklahoma plains as "one of the most destructive storms in history," President Barack Obama said Tuesday the state "needs to get everything it needs right away" to recover from the devastating twister.

The president, speaking from the State Dining Room at the White House, said he doesn't yet know the "full extent" of the damage or the "human and economic losses that may have occurred."

Dozens of people - including several children - were killed when the massive tornado struck an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, officials said.

At least seven of the children killed were at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, according to a police official.

While the total magnitude of the storm's damage is unknown, the president pledged the country's resources as the community seeks to rebuild.

"The people of Moore, [Oklahoma] should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes," he said. "There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms and in time we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community."

Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma late Monday night, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. The declaration makes federal funding available to the counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie.

Funds can go towards grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs, the White House said. State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations can also use some of the money in those counties.

"For all those who've been affected, we recognize that you face a long road ahead. In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed. But you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel it with you fueled by our faith in the almighty and our faith in one another. So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today," he said. "And we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes."

Obama is receiving ongoing briefings about the recovery efforts from Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and other senior members, according to the White House.

Obama told Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin Monday the resources of the federal government stand ready to assist her state as it recovers from the powerful set of storms that pounded an area near Oklahoma City Monday.

House Speaker John Boehner faced questions in a press conference Tuesday over how Congress will respond in support of federal aid efforts, given some in the GOP's resistance to robustly backing previous relief legislation without cutting spending elsewhere.

"We'll work with the administration on making sure they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma," said an emotional House Speaker John Boehner.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed an incident team to the state, Obama told Fallin, and more federal resources are on standby as the extent of the damage becomes clearer.


Filed under: Oklahoma • President Obama
soundoff (253 Responses)
  1. ST

    What a tough job this man has??? All the time is like he is working at the Emergency House. He needs all supports from all directions, all parties, all people in all of his endeavours.

    May 21, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    My heart goes out to those families affected. I've always found it baffling to me why you would want to live in portions of the country nicknamed "Tornado Alley." That swath of land should be condemned from habitation.

    May 21, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  3. Gurgyl

    USA better wake up, GOD is telling something here. Do not be racist. Do not be GOP idiots. We need to change the legal system and Tax-code. Lot of flaws.

    May 21, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  4. Al-NY,NY

    "Obama's using the tragedy to deflect from Ben-gazi. Shame on him!"...typical GOP response

    May 21, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  5. Wilson

    @Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    My heart goes out to those families affected. I've always found it baffling to me why you would want to live in portions of the country nicknamed "Tornado Alley." That swath of land should be condemned from habitation.
    -------------
    There are "pluses and minuses" to every where. Tornado alley, hurricanes on the east coast and gulf of mexico, earthquakes in california, etc. Kind of hard to cendemn the whole planet from habitation. We just have to take our chances or choose the places with more "pluses" than "minuses."

    May 21, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    I'm going to pass on the anti-Obama-bashing politics today (mostly because I can't get a word in anyway).

    Instead, I offer my thoughts and prayers to those who suffered through this horrific destruction.

    May 21, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  7. Wilson

    "cendemn" make that "condemn." I hate it when I create typos.

    May 21, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    No one should be using this horrible incident as an opportunity to indulge themselves in online political attacks: lets give it a rest for a day, shall we? Lets hope and pray for the safety and well-being of those afflicted by this catastrophe, and do something to help those in need.

    May 21, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    "There are "pluses and minuses" to every where."

    Indeed there are, Wilson. Years ago, the area I live in would be hit by tornado or straight line wind two maybe three times a summer. Lately though we've had very little weather to complain about. Thankfully.

    May 21, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  10. Fair is Fair

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    My heart goes out to those families affected. I've always found it baffling to me why you would want to live in portions of the country nicknamed "Tornado Alley." That swath of land should be condemned from habitation.
    -------
    Sure. Let's get rid of the gulf coast and the east coast because of hurricaines. Let's get rid of the west coast because of earthquakes, volcanoes, and wild fires. Let's get rid of Hawaii because of volcanoes. It's going to ger real cozy in Maine with 300 million people.

    May 21, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  11. BostonianNTheWoodlandsTX

    This certainly is not the time,but some how,some way someone will find fault or a problem with the president commenting on this in 5....4....3....2....

    May the people of Moore make a full and quick as possible recovery.

    May 21, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  12. Peoples State of Illinois

    @The Real Tom Paine

    No one should be using this horrible incident as an opportunity to indulge themselves in online political attacks: lets give it a rest for a day, shall we? Lets hope and pray for the safety and well-being of those afflicted by this catastrophe, and do something to help those in need.
    --------
    Agreed, though quite a few from the left (and a couple from the right) have already done begun the political attacks.

    May 21, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Wilson

    "cendemn" make that "condemn." I hate it when I create typos.
    ------------------
    Me, too.
    I just don't bother putting more stuff on the Moderators' plate by posting a correction,especially if the meaning is clear.

    May 21, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @Fair is Fair:
    It's going to ger real cozy in Maine with 300 million people.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I actually spit coffee all over my keyboard with this one!!
    Hell has frozen over. Fair has made me laugh.

    May 21, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. TSB8C

    Don't waste any time getting in front of the cameras and promising more spending. How much pork will be added to this "disaster relief" bill?

    May 21, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Sure. Let's get rid of the gulf coast and the east coast because of hurricaines. Let's get rid of the west coast because of earthquakes, volcanoes, and wild fires. Let's get rid of Hawaii because of volcanoes. It's going to ger real cozy in Maine with 300 million people.
    ---------------------------------------------
    Not necessarily what I was implying, but hey. If it makes you feel better. I'm just wondering why doesn't every home, store, school, etc. have in ground basements or safe rooms.

    May 21, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  17. jonnyg

    Never waste a good crisis

    May 21, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  18. David C. Gorman

    My thoughts and prayers go the the people on Moore, OK. Be strong, we are all with you.

    May 21, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    I cannot help but wonder what storm like this would do to an above ground oil pipeline....like Keystone.

    May 21, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  20. MikeMongo

    A true tragedy. A true poliitical opportunity. To paraphrase jonnyg above, never waste a good crisis...well I, for one, will not be "online bullied" into avoiding the obvious reality that this guy has no shame in utilizing the tragedies of others for his own benefit...I will post my sympathies to a story that is about the tragedy, NOT to a story regarding the president's speach about it...

    May 21, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Rudy NYC
    I cannot help but wonder what storm like this would do to an above ground oil pipeline....like Keystone.
    --------------------------------------------
    Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.

    May 21, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  22. Wilson

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Rudy NYC
    I cannot help but wonder what storm like this would do to an above ground oil pipeline....like Keystone.
    --------------–
    Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.
    ---------
    The pipeline would be made as "weather proof" as possible. But then, the oil rigs in the gulf are supposed to be as well. When man challenges mother nature, man will inevitably lose.

    May 21, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  23. MP

    Time to outlaw tornados.

    May 21, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  24. richard montgomery

    Obama is loving this.....takes the news off his scandals and now he can make empty promises to OK

    May 21, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  25. Not Again

    Surely the 'divider in chief' will use this disaster to try to make people forget about what an abysmal job he's doing and how many scandals have rocked his presidency. Remember, this is the same idiot who flew Newtown parents to Washington to try to push gun control (how did that work out for your Barack?)...

    May 21, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
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