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Center for storm victims opens in Pinellas Park

Robert Maxlow came hoping for a low-interest loan to fix what a tornado did to his car. Anna Clark came hoping for a $400 or $500 check to repair her uninsured mobile home.

Both left empty-handed Friday but with assurances their requests will be considered.

"I sure hope so," said Maxlow, a pizza delivery man, "because without a car, I got no job. Without a job, I got no money to pay for anything."

The city of Pinellas Park threw open the doors of its emergency information center Friday and began dispensing advice and information to the many victims of tornadoes that struck Pinellas County one week ago.

More than 50 families and individuals visited the center Friday to consult with representatives of several government and relief agencies, and more are expected during the weekend.

Missing from the center, however, was the agency with the most money.

FEMA _ the Federal Emergency Management Agency _ will open its own disaster application center Monday at the Mary Grizzle State Building, 11351 Ulmerton Road in Largo.

The FEMA center will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for five days, Oct. 12-16.

"It would have been nice to have our representatives here during the weekend when people have time away from jobs," FEMA spokesman Jay Eaker said, "but there was a lack of personnel."

Besides, he said, "we're here for long-term recovery, to help with things like low-interest loans. People with emergency needs should contact local agencies like the Red Cross."

When the FEMA disaster assistance center does open Monday, tornado victims will have a choice of visiting the center to apply for assistance or calling one of three 800 numbers. Visiting the center, however, will put the forms in an applicant's hand faster, Eaker said.

To apply for assistance, call FEMA at 1 (800) 462-9029. That number will be working seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice. The hearing impaired can call 1 (800) 462-7585.

Callers should have information ready, including Social Security number, number of people in the household, a daytime telephone number, insurance policy numbers or the name of their agent, directions to their home and a rough estimate of the damage.

People seeking information on FEMA programs can call 1 (800) 257-1407. This number will be operational every day but Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

At the FEMA center, representatives from various federal, state and local disaster-assistance programs will try to match victims' needs to whatever assistance is available.

No checks will be issued at the center, said FEMA coordinator Phil May. "Calling or visiting the center is the first step in the process."

The Pinellas Park information center will remain in its office at 6467 102nd Avenue N this weekend and will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Small Business Administration is moving in for the weekend too, but will join FEMA in the Mary Grizzle State Building in Largo on Monday.

A child-care area is available at the Pinellas Park center for parents who must bring their children, said Margaret McGarrity, the city's finance administrator.

10 deadliest weather-related disasters in U.S. history since 1900

Date Death toll Disaster details

Aug. 27-Sept. 8, 1900 About 6,000 Hurricane and tide devastate Galveston, Texas

Sept. 14-17, 1919 More than 300 Hurricane strikes Gulf Coast

from Texas to Florida

March 18, 1925 740 Eight tornadoes cut through

parts of Missouri, Indiana,

Illinois, Kentucky and

Tennessee; one killed 689,

13,000 injured; 15,000 homeless

Sept. 16-17, 1926 372 Hurricane hits Florida and

Alabama

Sept. 12-17, 1928 6,000 Hurricane hits West Indies and

Florida; 1,836 die in Florida

as a result of the hurricane

and the flooding of Lake

Okeechobee

Aug. 25, 1935 About 400 Hurricane strikes Florida Keys

Sept. 21, 1938 About 680 Hurricane damages New England

Sept. 14, 1944 390 Hurricane hits from North

Carolina to Maine

June 27-28, 1957 531 Hurricane Audrey and tidal

wave hits Louisiana and Texas

Feb. 15-16, 1958 More than 500 Snowstorm blasts Eastern

Seaboard from Delaware to

North Carolina; 26 states

experience cold wave

Sources: Encyclopedia Americana, New York Public Library Book of Chronologies, New York Times, Times files

Compiled by: Debbie Wolfe, news researcher

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