Here’s some information the state’s chamber of commerce officials won’t be touting anytime soon: Oklahoma ranks third in the number of declared disasters by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The state has received 66 disaster declarations, which means it ranks behind the large states of California, 84, and Texas, 77. Oklahoma has a population of 3.7 million and ranks 20th in terms of land size. By comparison, California, the most populated state, has 37.2 million people and is the third largest state in terms of land size. Texas, the second largest state in terms of size, has a population of 25.1 million.
What this means on a practical level-as if longtime state residents don’t know-is that Oklahoma has some of the worst and catastrophic weather in the entire nation. Tornadoes, blizzards, hail, ice storms, flooding and fires wreak havoc here on a regular basis, and our per capita FEMA disaster ratio is astronomical.
This doesn’t mean the state is without periods of good weather, but it does mean that people who live here-and especially new residents-should be reminded about how turbulent and life threatening the weather can be. The state’s geographical location makes it an epicenter of nasty weather. It’s part of the reality and culture here, and it should be openly noted for basic safety reasons.
The FEMA declarations also mean Oklahoma continues to be dependent on the federal government. No amount of Tea Party protesting here against the federal government will change that fact. Oklahoma is considered a receiver state, one that pays less in federal taxes that it receives back from the federal government. I wonder what this place would be like without the help of the federal government after all the severe weather events in, say, just the last 20 years. Would Oklahoma even be a viable entity?
Gov. Mary Fallin asked for another disaster declaration in response to Tuesday’s blizzard, which dropped 12 inches of snow or more in central and northeast Oklahoma. President Barack Obama, a man loathed by a majority of voters here in the “heartland,” granted it immediately.