Video: FEMA's big post-Katrina test

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/9/2007 7:29:21 PM ET 2007-02-10T00:29:21

Central Florida a week ago looked like a war zone — after tornadoes tore through the area, killing 20 and damaging or destroying more than 1,000 homes.

Initially, many residents feared they'd have similar frustrations over FEMA's response, as those on the Gulf Coast did a year and a half ago.

Unlike Hurricane Katrina, which gave plenty of notice, these tornadoes struck with little to no warning. Still, FEMA was on the ground in a matter of hours. Within two days, FEMA workers were going door-to-door offering help.

Paul Dinifrio was pleased when a FEMA agent showed up as promised.

"From what I have experienced so far has been excellent," he says.

FEMA Director David Paulison has come here twice since the tornadoes hit.

"By the time the president signed signed the declaration, then I already had equipment rolling across the state line into this area here," Paulison said in Lake Mack on Friday.

Local officials are elated by what they've seen. In the past seven days FEMA has delivered 5,000 tarps, 48,600 liters of water and nearly 415,000 ready-to-eat meals. And for many of the 1,600 people here who've applied for assistance, they say FEMA aid has been easily accessible and timely.

"I am surprised at how quickly they did it, how quickly they came in and how quickly they cut through red tape to make what we needed to have happen happen," says Lake County Public Safety Director Gary Kaiser.

Not everyone is completely satisfied. Greg Stortz lost his home and says he’s still waiting for answers.

"You can't get a straight answer out of anyone," he says. "Just tell me yes or no so I know what to do."

Mostly though, FEMA seems to be receiving passing marks from people grateful that insult isn't being added to injury.

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