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Biden views tornado damage

Vice President Joe Biden, right, visits with Berkeley resident Djuna Miller as he and Gov. Jay Nixon, left center, and Berkeley Mayor Kyra Watson, left, take a walking tour Wednesday to see storm damage from last month’s tornadoes.

Vice President Joe Biden, right, visits with Berkeley resident Djuna Miller as he and Gov. Jay Nixon, left center, and Berkeley Mayor Kyra Watson, left, take a walking tour Wednesday to see storm damage from last month’s tornadoes. Photo by The Associated Press.

BERKELEY, Mo. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden toured the lingering ruin of a neighborhood still reeling Wednesday from a tornado and severe storms that ripped the St. Louis area weeks earlier, pledging federal help to property owners even as devastating flooding mounted hundreds of miles away to the south.

Biden’s inspection of the stretch of Berkeley in suburban St. Louis came two days after his boss, President Barack Obama, ordered federal aid for Missouri to help the recovery from the April 22 storms and the flooding that followed, most notably in southeast Missouri’s Bootheel.

During the roughly 20-minute walkthrough, Biden assured Djuna Miller and other affected residents they could count on the U.S. government in helping them rebound with available federal grants for temporary housing, home repairs and loans for uninsured property losses.

Federal funding also can be used by some government agencies and nonprofit groups for emergency work and repairs or replacements to damaged facilities.

“This is all about being quick” with federal response, Biden, casually clad in a blue polo shirt and slacks, told reporters during his glimpse of the neighborhood with Gov. Jay Nixon. “We know people’s lives are disrupted. We get it, we understand it, we’re on top of it.

“It’s all about urgency,” Biden, generous with hugs and handshakes during his stop in the neighborhood, added on a day he would later spend headlining fundraisers in St. Louis and Minnesota before jetting back to Washington. “It’s all about giving people a shot to repair or relocate.”

Even weeks since a tornado damaged hundreds of homes and buildings in suburban St. Louis, the Berkeley neighborhood was an illustration of the recovery chore ahead. Large trees, many too wide to hug, still were toppled onto houses while a bulk of the trees fortunate to remain standing still were stripped and splintered by the tornado’s force. Debris was heaped along many of the streets that Biden’s motorcade gingerly navigated.

Miller found Biden’s visit — and promise of a federal hand to help — comforting. Two days after being told by her landlord to clear out “as soon as possible” of the storm-sacked home Miller shares with her fiance, a teenager and a nephew, the 47-year-old woman frets she has nowhere else to go and no money to do it.

“As you can see, it’s devastating all along here,” Miller, remarkably upbeat despite her straits, told a reporter. “You have to put your pride aside and ask for help.”

Biden’s stop in the nation’s midsection came as more often-record flooding continued its assault along the Mississippi River south of Missouri’s Bootheel, where the Army Corps of Engineers last week intentionally blew up a levee along the river and swamped 130,000 acres of farmland to ease the swollen Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

Biden pledged that those affected by the floodwaters in recent weeks — and those still to come — would not be forgotten.

“As bad as it is, and it is bad, it is evidence that the (Army) Corps of Engineers has come up with a method along the Mississippi to be able to mitigate some of the sginificant damage that otherwise would have occurred,” Biden said. “It’s a hard thing, and it’s just evidence of the fact that there is a need for something larger.”

“This is a national responsibility to deal with crisis when large portions of our population — whether it’s East Coast, West Coast or here — are devastated by it,” he added.

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