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After tour, Brown-Waite says help is on way

"I'm going to make sure FEMA does well by my constituents," she says.

Published February 7, 2007


In a way, the devastation looked familiar to Ginny Brown-Waite.

"It was almost like a flashback" to Hurricane Andrew, the congresswoman said. "But it was dispersed more."

The damage from last week's tornadoes looked as if "someone had picked up destruction and spread it over a vast area," the Brooksville Republican said. Lampposts were twisted like pretzels. Bathtubs, washers and dryers had been blown into front yards.

The storm was the first disaster of that magnitude to hit Brown-Waite's congressional district since she was elected in 2002. All day Saturday, she toured the wreckage and offered support to her constituents.

When Brown-Waite learned of the storm from Friday morning's news, her reaction was immediate: "Oh my God."

She had to get back to her district.

Luckily, since Brown-Waite tries to come to Florida every weekend, she had a plane ticket anyway.

She flew back from Washington, D.C., that day and was up early Saturday morning to travel through affected areas with Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida's two U.S. senators and other politicians and officials.

In her view from the helicopter, she could assess the force of the storm.

"It was indiscriminate in the path of its destruction," she said. "It didn't discriminate between rich and poor."

Mobile homes, wood-frame houses and concrete-block structures were all vulnerable. Many of the people affected in the Villages were in new houses and had moved to Florida just within the past few years.

Brown-Waite also traveled by car, hearing the concerns of those who had lost their homes and possessions.

She was impressed by the generosity of community members.

"It was really neighbors helping neighbors," she said.

And soon they'll get some help from the government. Brown-Waite praised the disaster declaration signed by President Bush and said her district director and other staff members will be in the area, helping people fill out official documents.

"I'm going to make sure FEMA does well by my constituents," she said. "I was passing out cards Saturday."

[Last modified February 7, 2007, 06:32:30]

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