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Dealing with a disaster

When our phones started working again after Hurricane Jeanne hit us in 2004, the first call was from my mother. Her advice: Move back to a place where you have to deal with only one type of natural disaster.

Her point was well taken. Hurricanes also tend to bring with them flooding from the associated deluges and tornadoes from accompanying thunderstorms.

Tornado Unfortunately, as central Floridians learned all too tragically early Friday, Feb. 2, tornadoes can arrive on their own. Today, the president declared the region a major disaster area, which makes federal assistance available for affected individuals in Lake, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties. Here's hoping that past lessons were learned, but as noted in this Orlando Sentinel story, some folks still have some doubts.

God forbid you have to go through something as terrible as a tornado or other major disaster. But most of us will probably face some sort of calamity one day.

The American Red Cross has these suggestions for dealing with the damage left by a tornado. This story has other tips on coping with such trying circumstances. And I blogged earlier about the need for folks who live in water-prone areas to get federal flood insurance.

If you ever face the worst-case scenario of a presidentially declared disaster area, don't forget to examine how the IRS can help. I wrote this story on the special filing circumstances available to taxpayers who encounter losses in major disasters. It's a bit dated; I had planned to redo it in a couple of weeks, thinking I had plenty of time before the spring thunderstorm/tornado season rolled around.

But the story's main advice still applies. You might be able to refile last year's return and get more tax money back to help you start recovering from a disaster.

How you can help: If you live in the north central Florida area and want to help those displaced by the storms, you can contact the following groups.

  • Heart of Florida United Way in Lake County, 352-223-2173, or Volusia County, 386-253-0563
  • Salvation Army in Lake County, 352-365-2540, or Volusia County, 386-236-2020
  • Red Cross of Citrus and Hernando counties, 352-564-8455
  • Catholic Charities, accepting food donations, 407-658-1818
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, accepting food donations, 407-295-1066   

If you're elsewhere and want to help, contact the national offices of the American Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or the Salvation Army at 1-800-725-2769.

Your help will be appreciated. And be sure to get a receipt. Next year, you can claim the donation on your 2007 return.


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